The first Tilted Axes, a guitar parade masterminded by NYC composer, Patrick Grant, took place on December 21, 2011, in lower Manhattan as part of Make Music Winter. 16 guitar players took part in the event. This is a documentary about the events leading up to the parade, and the parade.
Also below: Tilted Axes Photo Essay and a Q&A with Patrick Grant
Want to be a part of “Tilted Axes 2012” this Friday, December 21st? Visit here for details.
Q&A with Patrick Grant
December 9, 2012
Guitarkadia: What surprised you about the first guitar procession in terms of the event, musicians and the response you’d gotten from New Yorkers that night?
PG: The great thing about doing anything new is that you never know what kind of response you’ll get until you put it up before the public. I thought that by going through the East Village and up to Union Square was that we’d get that typical “I’ve seen this before” attitude. But we didn’t because they hadn’t! We all remember the countless faces breaking out into smiles as we wound our way through the city streets. That’s hard to forget. We’ll be doing a variation on that same route this year making sure to pass Rivington Guitars on E. 4th Street, a key supporter of this event. As always, I’m looking at every weather almanac out there. The one element, literally, that is always unknown and that will keep us adjusting variables up until the event.
G: When did you know you’d do another process the following year? Conceptually, how did you want to approach doing the music differently?
PG: I was wondering myself if we’d do it again. Things went well last year, many aspects just fell into place, so I was wary of asking lightning to strike twice. I was encouraged by a number of things. First off would be Aaron Friedman, the founder of Make Music New York. We met for lunch throughout the year and kicked around a number of ideas but this one kept coming back. Many of the musicians from last year were already looking forward to it as that I had “begun a tradition.” The deciding factor was when I received a Con Edison Musician Residency at the Turtle Bay Music School for Composition. This year’s procession is due, in a large part, to that award.
Musically, I didn’t want to change things too much, I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel on this one. Since I’m producing this event, I always start with a number of scenarios and kick them around to various potential sponsors and organizations and see what takes hold. I seem to start out with big, impossible ideas and, eventually, reality whittles those down to something possible. I will reverse this process in the future but that’s how it started. At one point I wondered if the musicians in the group could contribute music, that was when there was a possibility of this event ending as an actual concert, but that quickly became too unwieldy for what was eventually required. However, if we can form a solid core from this event, I would look forward to that in the future.
This year, we are keeping the main theme and playing variations upon it. Remember, when we are in the procession, our ideal audience member is the unsuspecting person on the street: they never hear a beginning or end to the music. It’s a loop. However, what will be truly different this year is that, along the route, there will be something like 7 stations where we will stop and create a circle or some other formation. This will give us an opportunity to play atmospheric music upon which there can be a featured soloist. Then we will resume the procession and move to the next station. I believe that these moments will have a great musical effect.
G: Can you tell me a little about the route this year, the gear, and the launching point, which is Joe’s Pub?
PG: When I proposed this event last year, I found that it left a lot of potential partners scratching their heads as to what exactly was I talking about. Now that the idea of an electric guitar procession is established, it was much easier for people to get behind it. Aaron Friedman connected us with Joe’s Pub. They liked the idea. One thing I learned last year was that having the starting and ending point being two different locations created logistical problems in terms of the players’ guitar cases and other personals. We had to have a rented car follow us around. This year, having the start and end point be the same, Joe’s Pub, makes everything easier. We will end in the newly renovated lobby of Joe’s and, I’ll tell you right now, it’s going to sound great there with all the natural reverb.
Also, we’ll be using Marshall MS-2 mini-amps this year, a step up in getting that iconic electric guitar sound. There’ll be last year’s Danelectro HoneyTones for back up and last minute additions but I’m very happy with the Marshalls. They’re really crunchy sounding if one plays chords but I’d like the ensemble to play as monophonically as possible this year because those little amps have a killer sustain like you won’t believe, truly living up to the Marshall name. Another thing we learned from last year is that different guitars eat up the battery power differently. We’ll have plenty of batteries on hand and can also make use of the 7 stations along the route as battery pit stops if needed.
G: You must have a host of new musicians participating this year. How is the lineup different, or same, from last year?
PG: For this year’s event, I first put out the call to everybody that participated last year and half are coming back. Everybody wanted to do it but many would be out of town, it being so close to the holidays. I broadened the search to include guitarists I’ve always wanted to work with or that I’ve met within the course of the year. All of these guys are great. Many of them I feel almost too lucky to have but I’m glad I do. Stylistically everybody is across the board so the tricky thing for us to do is, while incorporating our differences to find the commonality that holds our respective practices together and build from that. There’ll be room for everybody to individually shine within the procession’s framework but it must come from a dedication to the ensemble’s sound first.
G: Are you still accepting/inviting musicians to take part in the procession? Do you expect non-musicians to participate as well this year?
PG: There’s always room for a few late-comers but that always boils down to available mini-amps and their ability to be available for the couple of rehearsals we have scheduled. In many ways, this event is tailored to those who are present so the sooner I know that, the better the result will be. There have been similar events where musicians just show up and jam on well-known standards but our event is different, it’s original. That requires a little more dedication on the ensemble’s part if it is to be, as we all hope, good music, on top of everything else that will be happening.