Leading up to our Ignition Duo show, we will be writing about a few of our composers and performers! Chace Wall told us a bit about himself in preparation for the big show at the Center for New Music.
Be sure to check out the show at the Center for New Music on February 27.
Tickets will be available at the door, and rest assured we will have Lagunitas beer present, as they have offered their generous support of the arts.
My name is Chace Wall, and I was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. My family immigrated to the United States when I was very young during the Gulf War. This, I think, was a formative experience for me. The war made the immigration process very intense and difficult, and though I was only four years old, I could feel that we were not particularly welcome in the United States, at least as far as the government was concerned. How could you not feel othered when being referred to as an “alien”? While I’m thankful to have grown up in the states and love all the amazing friends I’ve made here through my childhood and adult life, that experience left a mark. I’ve since developed a healthy skepticism toward institutional authority, if nothing else.
I began playing drums in elementary school and continued on in marching band until the end of middle school. While this is technically how I got my start, I didn’t feel as if music was a big part of my identity until I began playing guitar when I was 14, and discovered artists like Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Sonic Youth, and Jimi Hendrix. I was amazed by what the guitar could do, and the power you could wield with a loud amp and a distortion pedal. I would play right after school, before my parents came home from work, and crank the bejesus out of my amplifier. I liked playing with feedback and would spend hours on the floor making all sorts of weird, wild sounds with my pedals (much to the chagrin of my little sister).
I spent the next ten or so years in rock bands, and eventually became a solid guitarist, singer, and songwriter. I think delving into the craft of songwriting is what made me want to learn to compose. I wanted to expand my writing, and to be able to compose arrangements like the ones on Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ records. Due to my lack of formal training, however, I kept hitting walls when trying to teach myself theory and orchestration. Finally I decided to enroll at Columbia College Chicago to study composition and expand my abilities as a songwriter. While I was there, I was lucky enough to study with Marcos Balter and Kenn Kumpf, who turned me on to contemporary classical music, and Dan Dehaan, who greatly expanded my ideas about electronic music and digital composition.
I am thrilled to have two very talented guitarists to collaborate with, and who were deeply invested in expanding the repertoire. I also thought it was great to work with guitar in an isolated context: in larger chamber ensembles, the electric guitar tends to get the short end of the stick. It’s a loud instrument, and is really difficult to balance with acoustic instruments. Often, to me, it just ends up sounding weedy and uninteresting in these contexts. I think with just the two guitars, you can create some really interesting sounds that do justice to the instrument.
I think the malleable nature of the electric guitar makes it an amazing sonic resource. In a way, there is no “electric guitar” – it’s a compound instrument comprised of the guitar itself, the amplifier, and any number of pedals in between the two. It’s almost infinitely variable in its very nature, and this, I think, makes it an important area of exploration. I could spend the rest of my life tinkering with pedals and preparations and not run out of ideas.
My personal goal has been to push myself to find unique sounds that I haven’t heard from the guitar before. The guitar repertoire in chamber music may not be huge, but the instrument has been explored like crazy for over 50 years by rock musicians. It would be easy rest on my laurels and rip off some Thurston Moore solo or one of Syd Barrett’s freak outs, but I want to continue to push and explore the way the guitarists I admire have. Expanding the guitar’s range of timbres by using Max/MSP has been a really fruitful venture in that way, if overwhelming at times.
The workshopping process was great, and very educational. I was able to assess how David and Ramon responded to the score I was developing, and learned a lot about the pitfalls of using a computer in the signal chain. The patch I made totally bombed at the first reading despite my best efforts and many tests. It was pretty embarrassing and a little discouraging, but I’m so glad to have had that experience then instead of just before the performance.
Working with GCG has been really rewarding. They’ve been super supportive of the performers and composers, and have been really on top of all the administrative stuff, which makes it easy to just focus on the music. It’s been great learning from the performers and my fellow composers during the workshopping sessions as well, and I gained insights from those experiences that I wouldn’t have found on my own. I feel as if I’ve grown a lot as a composer through this experience.
The Guerrilla Composers Guild is a fiscally-sponsored affiliate of the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the service of chamber music in California.
Please consider making a donation to help us put on our future shows! We are proud to be fiscally sponsored by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and would love it if you considered donating. If you would like to donate goods or have a special request with a donation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
The show is also supported in part by Lagunitas, and we are so excited to feature their beers for your enjoyment!