Monday, February 19, 2007

Duck Funk Symphony

duck funk symphony
volume 4 no. 16
after months and months of preparation, phone calls,
design changes, and hours of brain cells burned away
there it was: the refrigerator.
the name given to the large appliance-size guitar rack
I had dreamed of which was custom-built
by electronics wizard Al Jewer.
Al had invented a nifty box called Flash
that allowed effects to be routed in endless ways
and controlled via a midi pedalboard.
he had custom-built many of my oldest effect boxes
(things like the fuzzy Foxx Tone Machine and the Polychorus)
into a midi-controlled rack unit.
the refrigerator offered the latest in guitar synthesizer
technology (Roland GR-50 and GR-1)
and many of the newest rack unit effect boxes (like the Korg A3).
Flash allowed these very disparate old school and hi-tech items to be combined
any way you liked.
amazing, the amount of sounds I would now have at my fingertips.
the refrigerator was completed just in time for my upcoming flight to new york
to begin the all-important rehearsals with the new King Crimson double trio. 1994.

my partner was Noah Evens* a brilliant young engineer
fresh out of audio school where he excelled at the head of his class.
my guitar tech was Biff Blumfumgagne* who still is my guitar tech.
we needed to put the refrigerator through its paces to see what it could do
and shake out any last minute glitches.

so I began playing a standard funk riff
(I was using that same riff at the time for the writing of the song people)
while noah and biff pushed buttons and turned knobs.
and that's how this improvised piece was born.
I continued to play the funk riff ,
noah would push a new combination of buttons,
biff would turn a couple more knobs,
new sounds would appear and so on...
a three-man improv.
at about 3:13 into the madness
you can almost hear us laughing in amazement
when the duck arrived.

I like to think of this piece as the fanfare
for the ducks of the Peabody Hotel in Orlando
who are taking their daily walk
down the red carpet which has been rolled out for them
and into the elevator to be whisked to the rooftop
for fresh air, tasty treats, and pamperment.
this happens at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day at the Peabody,
which is where I met martha on may 1, 1990,
but that's another chapter.

*noah evens was my recording engineer for a few years during which time we made here, the acoustic adrian belew, and guitar as orchestra among other things. noah was gifted at many things. he wrote the middle string quartet section for the hit song flood by jars of clay. he played the two violin parts, I played the two cello parts. I always felt his string quartet contributed greatly to the success of that song. on noah's watch we (me, martha, and noah) moved from williams bay, wisconsin to nashville. noah hated nashville and eventually moved back to the carolinas where he lives (happily we hope) today.

*biff blumfumgagne not only has a last name that could choke Mr. Ed The Talking Horse but also a unique mixture of talents. biff plays many instruments, has a band called the gomers, and has the amazing technical expertise needed to comprehend my guitar set-up and keep it burbling perfectly. which he has done on and off for many years.


  1. > to be whisked to the rooftop
    for fresh air, tasty treats, and pamperment.

    sounds like something Robert would say. (I'm just sayin'.)

    That Foxx Tone Machine is really old, but it sure sounds great on Paint the Road. I used one on a recording in 1979 and it still has Bryce and Egress laughing at me. It's OK, I know they're really laughing at the Foxx Tone Machine. - S.

  2. this peice reminds me of a summer day when my family went to a park with a pond . this park featured a surreal number of canadian geese . we had made a large batch of popcorn and brought some pop to enjoy . i foolishly encouraged our little one to feed the "duckie's" some carn . what followed could only be described as pure carnage . it got so crazy that donna was really afraid for the children , and i was too . we had to flee , i guess thats what you get when you mix man with animal .

  3. This is so cool, I'm starting to learn how to play guitar, it is not that difficult as I play bass, great information, I would love to have one of those boxes.

  4. This is really interesting because I was astonished with "Flash" because it allows to create different effects, I'd like to know a little bit more about it.

  5. It is quite interesting that science behind that thing. I will check it if I can find it on amazon.