On Saturday, October 4 at 2 pm we present the performance / sculpture Record Attempt by the conceptual media artist Thom Kubli. Locked up in an artificial white cube we have placed inside the gallery Kubli will play the longest guitar solo ever played in the history of music and sound.
With this record attempt the artist refers to the musical tradition introduced by rock guitarists as Jimi Hendrix, Edward Van Halen, Jimmy Page, or Richie Blackmore – to name just a few. To play a solitary guitar solo that is mostly a prelude or after-play to a song performed with a band, conjoins subculture and virtuosity and often contributes to the prestige and fame of the performer. In performing these artistic interventions new means of expression have been explored and established that today have become standard techniques in the culture of electric amplified guitar playing.
The event also refers to the measurement of sonic and musical phenomena, a discipline known since Pythagoras. In 500 A.D. he divided an oscillating string into several partitions in order to explore the harmonic relationships between acoustic intervals. Since then a large variety of efforts have been undertaken to measure and categorize musical phenomena.
Today the webpage www.THE-WSM.net would seem to provide the appropriate setting for the measurement of an electric guitar solo within a contemporary cultural context in which size and measurement are crucial references. During this record attempt Kubli will push the performance of a guitar solo to a extreme peak and, in documenting and measuring it, to align this cultural phenomenon with other extraordinary artistic and human experiences.
The measurement will be officially supervised by the notary Ingo Schreinert. The technical setup consists of an electric guitar, an amplifier and a volume pedal, plus the necessary wiring. This minimal setup conforms to the standard guitarist instrument repertoire used by bands playing contemporary rock music.
The equipment mentioned will be located on a small stage. This is where the guitar playing will take place. Next to the stage there will be a seat for the WMS record adjudicator. A digital video camera will continuously record the event and broadcast it on the internet.
The record attempt will be introduced with a simple chord change of defined length and tempo (Prologue). Up from there the guitar solo will start and the time will be measured. The solo will end when the chord changes described before are played a second time (Epilogue).
The guitar strings are tuned in "standard tuning": E A d g b e'
The guitar solo is framed by a simple chord structure that will mark the beginning and the end of the record attempt: Em/C/G/A, played eight times at approximately 120 bpm. After the playing of the described prologue the actual guitar solo will begin along with the time measurement. As the guitar solo comes to an end, the previously described chord-changes will be played again eight times at around 120 bpm. To this epilogue an appropriate musical ending can be added, such as the repetition or slowing down of the last notes. The record attempt will be completed with the start of the epilogue.
3. Timing and Harmonic Structures
The solo will be related at first to the harmonic structure and timing of the prologue. From there it can develop freely into different harmonic modes or timings. To ensure that the dynamic of the guitar solo stays in recognizable relation to the musical and cultural reference of contemporary rock guitar solo-playing, the duration between two impulses (played notes) must not exceed ten seconds. For example: A single note can sound for up to ten seconds, then another note has to be played or the same note has to be picked again. Impulses can derive from the right or the left hand.
All techniques that are known as standard within playing electric guitar solos can be applied. For example bend, hammer-on, pull-off, slide, tapping, natural harmonic or palm mute. Further the use of amplifier feedbacks, utilizing the physical noise of the guitar body or playing with both hands on the guitar neck is legitimate. Crucial for the measurement of the solo is the impulses from the left or the right hand described under paragraph 3.
The solo will be played with guitar sounds typical and common for contemporary rock music. Sound effects as distortion and a filtering effect known as wahwah can be utilized. A slight room simulation as a reverb or a delay can be added. The sound will be provided by a regular guitar amplifier. The volume of the sound and the wahwah-effect will be controlled by a foot pedal.
Thom Kubli (*1969), a Berlin based artist, has worked in the field of electronic music since the mid 90s. From 1999–2003 Kubli studied at the Academy of Media Art in Cologne with Anthony Moore and Jürgen Klauke. He presented his visual work at the ICA, London, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Ars Electronica, Linz, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, I Beam, New York, Transmediale, Berlin. His audiowork has been presented amongst others at WDR / Studio Akustische Kunst, Lucky Kitchen and 12 k.