With the invention of the Sampler, absolutely any sound can be turned into a playable instrument. David Barnes takes advantage of this in his album "Hinges". Creaky door hinges, plumbing groans, steam coming out of radiators and chainsaws were all turned into musical instruments on this album. Barnes combines these sampled sounds with his collection of homemade industrial percussion instruments and a custom circuit-bent electronic instrument called an Incantor to create electronic music that is edgy, innovative and industrial in a sort of "ear candy" way - catchy, not noisy.
Here is a rundown of what is included on the album:
I Gotta Chainsaw in my Pocket - The instrument parts are all sampled using a vintage Akai S2800 sampler (this was 1997), and played using Performer sequencing software on an old Macintosh Quadra 650. Included are many of the sounds listed above (chainsaws, plumbing, homemade industrial percussion, Incantor) as well as a distorted drum set and a lead vocal track. The vocals (distorted and performed by Barnes) are a sort of twisted rap about the pent-up frustration symbolized by the chainsaw in the pocket (although the song tends to take that visual image more literally). Inspired by the frustration of working for the music industry. The driving electronic pulsing sound that keeps the piece rolling is the Incantor - a circuit-bent instrument made from a Texas Instruments "Speak and Math" by instrument inventor Q.R. Ghazala.
Panic in Legoland - Like the first piece on the album, this one is made up primarily of sampled sounds, triggered by a sequencer on a vintage Macintosh. There are also two drum sets, played by Barnes with sections sampled and included in the sequence. There is a didgeridoo part by Daniel Orlansky - again sampled and included in the sequence. There is also a sax played by David Peck.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - part 4 - This is part of a soundtrack that Barnes played live at a showing of the old black-and-white silent film "In the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". It is mostly made up of samples of creaky door hinges played manually via keyboard and looped. There are also samples of Whirlies and an electric razor.
Hub of Society - This was Barnes' first composition after moving to New York City to work in the music industry. It is funky and uplifting - a very different feel from "I Gotta Chainsaw..." which was composed a few months later after the inevitable disillusionment set in. The instrumentation is bass guitar, looped electric guitar, drum machine and looped percussion. The electric guitar has somewhat of a Fripp sound to it.
Juice - Three tracks of Incantor played live, drums tuned way down, cowbells, bicycle wheel spokes, a tree eater, and a Fripp-like guitar track.
Hinges - This piece is mostly recordings of creaky door hinges. They were not sampled and sequenced in this case, but recorded live onto tape. The inspiration: David was in the middle of his second fellowship at the MacDowell artist colony in Peterborough New Hampshire. A cabin in the woods with a grand piano, fireplace, lunch delivered to his doorstep. In other words, a pretty good deal. But the string quintet that he was there to write just wasn't coming together. But every time he went into the bathroom or closet, the hinges would creak so joyfully that he eventually stopped what he was doing to record the hinges instead. After the fellowship, Barnes continued to keep his ears peeled for other vociferous door hinges, and eventually put together a decent collection using his portable DAT machine. "Hinges" was the resulting composition, although he continues to use some of those hinge samples in his current work. One other note - there is a West Highland Terrier towards the end of the piece who was present during one of the hinge recordings and who decided to jam along.
The Acquisition - The instrument parts of this composition are a collaboration between David Barnes and David Forlano. There are two drum sets, bass guitar and a Rhodes piano with the top removed. Most of the quirky sounds were made by the Davids playing the open-faced Rhodes together using pieces of steel and glass on the inside tongs. There are also a few brief samples of the Incantor. Over the top of this music there is a sci-fi short story written by David Barnes and narrated by Michael Brann. Michael drove down to Barnes' apartment in Brooklyn to do this narration and brought with him the chainsaw necessary to finish "I Gotta Chainsaw...". But you can't just crank up a chainsaw in a small apartment in Brooklyn and expect your neighbors to think that everything is hunky dory upstairs. So we drove around Brooklyn trying to find a place to safely record the chainsaw biting into some wood. I was amazed by how densely populated Brooklyn was, now that I was trying to find some privacy. Then we drove past this house that had an enormous tree fallen down in the front yard. We slowed down our station wagon to take a look. The owner came out of the house and walked up to us and said "Are you boys here from the city to cut up that tree?" We looked at each other...