Tom Attah soundscapes Hendrix

Tutor News

BIMM Manchester tutor, Tom Attah (AKA The Living Bluesman) was given the honour of providing a soundscape for the new permanent exhibition ‘Handel & Hendrix’ at Jimi Hendrix’ former flat at 23 Brook Street, London.

This public exhibition celebrates the musical legacies of Hendrix and Handel – two of the most prominent figures in musical history – who lived, wrote and played in neighbouring buildings, but 240 years apart!

Hendrix was at a pivotal point in his career when he moved into the Mayfair flat in July 1968, with the imminent release of his Electric Ladyland LP.  As part of the show, the apartment has been painstakingly restored to how it would have been when Hendrix was in residence in 1968 and 1969. It will feature original exhibits, including the Epiphone FT79 acoustic guitar which he bought in New York at the end of his first US tour.

Attah’s original music arrangements provide a backdrop and atmosphere to the exhibition. All of the songs in the soundscape are played on an acoustic guitar and re-create different modes of Jimi’s playing: rock, pop, ballads and underpinning all, the blues.

Tom and his musical partner, Ari Rannus were introduced to the project by Martin Wyatt, and musicologist Christian Lloyd. During the writing process, they looked at everything from the roster of musicians he befriended to other sounds of the time, including blues, psychedelia and British soap opera theme tunes. Tom’s Ph.D. thesis examines the effects of technology on blues music and culture, so who better to create the soundtrack?

As Tom explained, ‘‘We explored all avenues and possibilities. The challenge was to replicate the sound of Jimi on an acoustic guitar. The phrasing, note choice, and vibrato of any individual guitar player is like a fingerprint and is tough to copy directly. Extensive listening revealed the contradiction at the heart of Jimi’s playing.  On stage he could be ferocious, emotive, bold and powerful, the only way to get close to his phrasing and style was to approach the instrument with tenderness and a lightness of touch. As soon as we had embraced the space and gentleness of his phrasing, music that recalled this master composer and performer began to take shape in the studio.”

“Ari and I have thoroughly enjoyed creating an active part of the soundscape and are thrilled to be connected with this project. Of course, no one will ever be able to play exactly like Jimi, but we are deeply honoured to have paid tribute to a musician whose immense contribution to music and culture remains incalculable. We hope that our music adds to the ambience of this beautiful exhibition and allows the many visitors to 23 Brook Street to step into Jimi’s private world for a few moments.”

For more information on the Handel & Hendrix London exhibition: www.handelhendrix.org

For more information on Tom Attah and Ari Rannus: http://www.tomattah.com/

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