|classic with modern twist
Nancy Chow - March 31, 2008
Andrew Bird, Owen Pallett and Patrick Wolf have been popularizing the use of strings
in indie music, but Slow Six mastermind Christopher Tignor is taking it one step
further and transforming strings into a compelling voice that supersedes the need
for any words. Tignor leads his chamber orchestra through a novel yet satisfying
and thorough musical experience. “Private Times in Public Places,” the
band’s debut, was included in Time Out New York’s top 10 classical recordings
in 2004, but to label the group’s music as merely classical is a tragedy.
Hints of jazz, math rock and ambient music reside in the music, and set the band
apart from other bands working with synthetic and organic elements. Electronics,
strings, guitar and drums intertwine and build like a brewing storm, only to hurtle
into a striking crescendo of magnificently orchestrated lightning bolts of notes.
The legato feel of the songs, however, makes the clap of cascading notes go down
The band changes the perception of how strings are used in modern music to point
that it¹s difficult to place the music in an exact genre. Was that part of
your musical vision for Slow Six?
Christopher Tignor: Slow Six has always been very string focused as violin is
the instrument I grew up playing most. If you're of the adventurous sort, you
naturally stumble onto new ways to be expressive with the instrument. But for
us it's never about consciously trying to do something new for its own sake, it's
about creating really moving music that perfectly expresses the vision for how
a certain song should feel. Sometimes, carving out a new musical path is just
the only way to get there.
On Slow Six’s MySpace, there’s a video where you use this Echoustic
software that allows you to record Stephen Griesgraber’s guitar, deconstruct
and compose new music out of it. Do you create these software programs, and how
integral are they in Slow Six¹s music?
Christopher Tignor: Yeah, I build these software programs myself, super-nerd that
I am. They've been quite important for most of the music we've released so far,
though lately I've just been playing more violin. One of the reasons I started
the band was to try and see if I could create these software instruments that
transformed the sound of the other band members and that honestly felt like "instruments"
to play. It's sort of the opposite of pressing the space bar and starting up a
beat machine. I'm usually playing them on a midi keyboard and they take a long
time to get good at as they're completely dependent on what the player whose sound
I'm taking in is doing. As a result, it leads to a really intimate type of listening
between you and your band-mates - that's the most gratifying part.
With such potent music, how do you find the right balance with your visuals at
your live shows?
Christopher Tignor: You definitely don't want to do something that's going to
distract people from the thrust of the experience it really has to work hand in
hand with the music. The only answer I've found is to work with people that understand
your music and also understand the nature of the experience as a concert as opposed
to an art installation or DVD. You have to choose your content carefully too -
our video artists create beautiful abstract imagery so we're not in danger of
feeling like we're providing the soundtrack to a narrative silent movie or anything
- though that would be really fun too sometime...
You’ve recently played at Calvary Church on leap day. What is the most unusual
venue that you¹ve performed in?
Christopher Tignor: Probably the Apple Store in SoHo. It was closed for this super
glitzy after-party and completely packed with gorgeous Gatsby-types gobbling down
expensive catering and free glasses of champagne and Daniel Lanois played right
after us which was delightfully absurd. We created a video installation underneath
their huge glass staircase and set up in the front of the cash registers. Then
we invited all our broke friends and filled the place up with sound and light,
freaking a bunch of folks out to be sure. I wore a white suit and someone called
me iChris. A good night.