Monday, June 4, 2007

A Nut For A Jar Of Tuna

a nut for a jar of tuna
volume 3 no. 5

within a year after
I'm only sleeping
backward sounds
began popping
up everywhere,
most notably on
hendrix and beatles
that began my
life-long fascination
with all things
15 years later with
the release
of my first record
lone rhino
I developed the habit
of turning
nearly every item I recorded backwards just to hear its effect (something I still do). if you listen to lone rhino you'll hear backward effects on half of the songs, a trend throughout most of my work. for years I strove to make my guitar sound backward while playing "live".

then in 1985 I met someone who could help in my quest. he was an electronics whiz from california. I don't remember his name so I'll call him Mystery Geek. he had made a modification to an Electro-Harmonix 16-Second Delay box which allowed you to play backward! better yet, you could set it to hear what you were playing backward and forward at the same time. yow!
you set the length of the backward delay and pushed a little square red button. by watching a light metronome blinking the delay time you could feel the tempo you needed to play. I couldn't stop noodling with the box, I found it so fascinating.

once while in L.A. my manager stan hertzman and I drove to the mystery geeks apartment. after a minimum of quiet pleasantries the mystery geek launched into a monologue of hi-tech geekspeak which was unstoppable. he talked and talked about diodes and flux capacitors...I had no idea what he was saying. after 20 minutes of such bombardment, I looked at stan. he was sitting upright on the couch, asleep.
eventually we ran out of time and had to return to the planet Earth. I joke about the mystery geek, but in fact he did me a huge favor. with his modification I wrote this piece of music** which is the same forward as backward. it's played all at once on the guitar.
this is one of my personal favorites. I wish I could have continued further down this path. I still find it fascinating.

but the box broke soon thereafter. I never located the mystery geek again.
which makes this piece even more unique.
I still use backward sounds as an important part of my music.

something that's the same forward as backward is known as a palindrome. in fact, the title of this piece a nut for a jar of tuna when turned around backwards is:
a nut for a jar of tuna.

nowadays I do it "live" all the time (thank you, technology) but in the early 80's it was still still a limited and time-consuming process available only in the studio.

eventually I wrote a song for the bears first record called wavelength using this same piece of music without the backward parts.

guitar: adrian
recorded at home in Urbana, Illinois september 1985
length: 4:24


  1. drawkcab = draw-KC-AB

    Even that is cool.

    Wavelength was my first favorite from The Bears way back. I think it still is. Played it backwards on vinyl but haven't done that in a long time.

    It's amazing that this track can be forward and backward at the same time. I'm so glad you found this interest!

  2. It's unfortunate that the word palindrome is not itself a palindrome. Kind of like phonetics not being spelled phonetically. Love your stuff Adrian. And this blog makes me feel like a personal friend. Thanks for that.

  3. so coooool....

    I remember my jaw dropping (and my mind aching a bit) when I heard Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' song UFO TOFU (from the album UFO TOFU) for the first time which also contains musical palindromes (performed). Simply amazing!

    Imagine my delight when Adrian appeared on a forthcoming album of theirs. Did you ever play live with them Adrian?

  4. I like the piece (Wow. Madam, I'm Adam. Wow.), this may sound random, but it makes me think that it could be a string quartet number.

    I was first attracted to backwards guitar when my brother played me a recording of his version of "Burning of the midnight lamp" backwards. That melody sounds great backwards.

    I remember how easy it was on the 4-track cassette recorder to do backwards guitar parts. Record tracks one and two, then flip the tape, and record on track two while listening to the rest of it backwards, flip the tape again, and you had backwards guitar on track three, that you could fade in and out as needed. Alas, I never kept up with it all. Never really explored the possibilities.

    ... I'm glad you did. Thanks!

  5. anyone know what effects box/rack/pedal is best at creating the backward guitar effect live.

  6. Um, color me stoopid, but are there supposed to be actual links to sound tracks? I'm not seeing any with either Firefox or Explorer but from the gist of many conversations it seems that there should be...

  7. random, go to the StoreBelew Music Downloads at the top right of the page.

    : )

  8. I always wondered about the gadget you use to play backwards live now. Essentially, it has to sample a bit of what you are playing and then play it backwards. What I imagine will happen is that what comes out will actually made up of short sections that were reversed. But how can you know when the gadget will stop the current section and start the next one? And then how do you keep the backwards stuff in time with the song live since you have to play the notes ahead of time? It's amazing seeing you do it live.

  9. Man, I miss my old Electro Harmonix 16-second Delay unit. I loved that thing. The main circuit board on mine got all bubbly, and it stopped working.
    I used to have fun doing backwards stuff on my old cassette Portastudio too.

    Adam, I don’t know which is the best unit for backwards effects, but my Line 6 Delay Modeler has a pretty good backwards effect setting.

  10. i have wanted to learn more about particular topics, but not many websites would help me out in informing me the way i expected. this left me with many question, but after reading your article, i got an answer to all my questions. you are too cool dude!!!