Rhys Chatham is a composer, guitarist and trumpet player from Manhattan, currently living in Paris, who altered the DNA of rock and created a new type of urban music that fuses the overtone-drenched sounds of early 60s minimalism with the relentless, elemental fury of the Ramones where the textural intricacies of the avant-garde collide with the visceral punch of electric guitar-slinging punk rock. Starting with Guitar Trio in the 1970s and culminating with A Crimson Grail for 200 electric guitars in 2009, Chatham has been working for over 30 years to make use of armies of electric guitars in special tunings to merge the extended-time music of the sixties and seventies with serious hard rock. Parallel with his rock- influenced pieces, Chatham has been working with various brass configurations since 1982, and recently has developed a completely new approach with collaborations, improvised and compositional pieces involving trumpet through performances and recordings that started in 2009. Chatham’s trumpet work deploys extended playing techniques inherited from the glory days the early New York minimalist and free jazz period.
After writing the Lincoln Center outdoor version of A Crimson Grail, a composition for 200 electric guitars and 16 electric basses, what does one do next?
Rhys Chatham decided to begin where he left off with his brass pieces of the 90s for trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn.
While his work with trumpet and electronica allowed him to give lie to those who have too readily confined him to role of the “prince of guitar noise” (with Drastic Classicism, Chatham was one of the main initiators of noise rock), the principles that have governed his experiments on trumpet are remarkably similar to those that have guided his compositional process with the guitar: repetition, elongation, delay techniques, successive layering of sound phenomena inducing shimmering harmonics underpinned by persistent and explosive electric bass and drums.
Chatham deploys extended playing techniques inherited from the glory days of free jazz (Don Cherry, Bill Dixon, Jac Berrocal…) as well as leaders of the minimalist movement (John Cale, Tony Conrad, Jon Hassell, Charlemagne Palestine, La Monte Young…) of which he is one of the successors, arriving at a mix that ebulliently exits from his various horns while simultaneously going through stomp boxes and electronic devices. The result is delivered to an audience that has over the years never ceased to continue following his music with a mixture of surprise and enthusiasm – these forays into such diverse areas of style and sound as punk, techno, drum ‘n’ bass, drone metal, serious hard rock, and of course, the minimalist music scene of downtown NY at the dawn of the 70s, the scene which gave birth to him.