palpate (2020)

for solo unamplified electric guitar, contact microphone, e-bow

Recorded by Ryan Carraher

palpate creates a performance environment which denatures the guitarist's habitual playing procedures. Traditional techniques such as strumming and picking are replaced by pinching, pulling, pressing, shaking, and dragging. The performer holds a contact microphone in their right hand. All amplified sounds are the result of the microphone's quality of contact with the strings. Microscopic differences of distance, angle, location, and pressure of the microphone's interaction relative to the strings result in significant, and often unstable, sonic catastrophes. Simultaneously, the left hand holds or places an e-bow upon the strings while effecting further manipulations through bending, fretting, crossing, tuning, twisting, and/or plucking. Additionally, the guitar is played in lap-position and the right and left hands are freed from their traditional roles. For instance, it is commonplace for the left hand to position the e-bow behind a fretting finger while another finger of the same hand plucks behind the e-bow, or perhaps the e-bow is placed between the pickups while the left hand pinches and bends the string and the right hand slides the contact microphone up and down the fretboard. The contact microphone and the unconventional means of interaction are modes of palpation seeking to indirectly glance upon and communicate what a guitar is capable of when disconnected from conventional approaches. Similar to the way a physician uses a stethoscope and external tactile methods to substantiate a possible diagnosis, palpate works not to arrive at diagnoses to be treated, but rather previously unforeseen possibilities to be explored.

© 2020 by Ryan Carraher