I don’t often write about musicians, even though I know and cherish many of them and love their music. But, this past Sunday, I experienced musical magic in a coffeehouse.
The extremely talented Michael Mullen, formerly “the Mad Fiddler” of Tempest fame, has become a master of “looping”, a technique where tracks can be laid down or sampled by a musician, replayed, and played against.
Mullen steps it up a big notch. Nothing is pre-recorded. Each track is laid down in situ, right there in front of the audience, then layered upon each other to create an exciting multi-performance ensemble.
In his “TriaSoli” performances, Michael constructs a duet, then a quartet, and then a small chamber group before us with each song. He begins with one beautifully rendered track, masterfully bringing the next instrument to life, and moves on to the next. From viola to cello to bass to violin, the anticipation builds until finally, he fills the room with a full-on chamber group that gives you goosebumps.
We got goosebumps on Sunday. And it wasn’t just that he performed Bach, Beethoven and Haydn solo. It wasn’t just that he has clearly mastered his instrument and the crazy amount of effects boxes in a semi-circle at his feet. It wasn’t that he was deconstructing symphonic works at all – rather, he gave us the gift of getting to experience each part in its own beautiful way, and the experience of what each instrument added to the whole – and then the whole itself.
That isn’t all, either, but I’m not sure how to describe it. That’s how art that affects you renders you mute – words can’t possibly engulf it all. So, I ask you, if you get a chance to see Michael Mullen perform in live looping mode, go. Listen. Watch. And let me know what you think.
Michael Mullen donated his performances at Panama Bay Coffeehouse, 2115 First Street, Livermore, to help kickstart the new “Sunday Afternoon Matinee”, devoted to performers with original and traditional music, produced by Duane Gordon. The series has since shown the works of over 22 regional musicians, many of whom performed their own original music – including Steve Kritzer’s music students ranging from 8 to 16. You can find more information about upcoming shows at valleysingout.com, scheduled in bursts throughout the year.
Update: Michael performs at the Bothwell Arts Center on October 22, 2016, 7:30 pm. You need to see this.
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