“Clearing Customs,” the Album

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Ever heard of Fred Frith? No? Then prepare to have your horizons expanded.

I Google-stumbled across Frith while looking for other instances of clearing customs on the internet. He’s a world-renowned experimental musician and college professor who, in 2011, released Clearing Customs, the album.

Born in Sussex, England, Frith has traveled the globe composing, performing, and teaching. He now lives in the US with his wife, German photographer Heike Liss, where he teaches at Mills College in Oakland, California.

Clearing Customs is an hour-long improvisational performance by Frith and other musicians using several instruments, including a Chinese gu zheng and an Indian mridangam and tabla.

To give you a taste of Frith’s kind of music, here’s a clip of him performing at a Mozg festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland. In it, he plays a guitar using a drum stick and a thin strap. As I watched it the first time, I thought, Hey, I could play a guitar with a drum stick. But I’m pretty sure Firth has more musical talent in his little finger than I have in my whole body. And I’m pretty sure he uses his little finger to play, as well.

Frith is also in the 2009 Canadian documentary Act of God, about people who’ve been struck by lightning. In the film, his brother, neuroscientist and author Chris Frith, measures the electrical impulses in Fred’s brain while he improvises on a guitar. In this way, the documentary compares the electrical activity of a storm to the electrical activity of the brain.

I wonder if Fred Frith will ever Google clearing customs, find my site, and blog about me. There’s probably about as much chance of that happening as the chance of me being struck by lightning (which, by the way, the National Weather Service says is 1 in 10,000, during my lifetime).

[photo: “Record Player,” by Ralf Heß, used under a Creative Commons license]

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