Fiddler favors the layered sound
Written by COLE CHRISTENSEN Festival Program Writer   
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 13:01
Casey Driessen (Photo by Sandlin Gaitheri)
What do Steve Earle, Bela Fleck, Tim O’Brien, Darrel Scott, John Mayer and Frank Vignola all have in common?
They are all master musicians that have sought the talents of violinist Casey Driessen for their studio and stage projects.
For over a decade Driessen’s name has been synonymous with genre-transcending skills on the violin. From traditional bluegrass and Americana recordings, to progressive jazz fusion and world music,the ability to take the violin to new dimensions that break out of “traditional” roles has made Driessen a much-in-demand musician.
While Driessen’s work as a studio musician and hired gun have been a large component of his career, including a recent extended tour with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, he has also had a penchant for the solo stage.
The Black Swamp Arts Festival will be an early stop for Driessen’s debut “Singularity Tour” that features the violinist performing solo with his instrument, and creating sounds that, if you close your eyes, sound like an entire band performing.
“The concept of looping and technology is nothing new on the violin circuit, and it is not necessarily new for me, but this is the first full-scale concentrated effort towards this direction,” Driessen said in a recent telephone interview. “In the past using looping has been something for the practice room so I have something to play along to when I am working on material. Slowly that kind of developed into writing tunes and adding another piece of gear to get a certain sound.”
Driessen’s solo work is a treat for the eyes and the ears, and allows the audience to watch and hear a song being constructed one layer at a time in careful orchestration.
Using a peddle board, looping technology, effects and different electronic tools to capture sounds from the violin, he is able to build rhythm, bass, harmony and melody, and then improvise over the entire arrangement.
An arrangement may start with a simple tap on the violin, or a sawing bow, and end with a sound that is textured, multifaceted and cohesive.
By combining traditional bowing and non-traditional bowed rhythmic approach with strumming, plucking, tapping, Driessen extends the capabilities of the violin without sacrificing the tonal qualities of the instrument.
“You can improvise something on the spot creating textures and loops, but to really realize the potential it is kind of like a puzzle that you have to put together,” he said. “What sound is going to happen at this time, and what do I do if I want that sound to reappear at another time, and when do I need to record it…ultimately, how do I make this layered sound be palatable to listen to.”
He leverages new music, reconstructs older original songs, and also includes some traditional fiddle tunes into his Singularity performances, an approach that allows fans of traditional fiddle genres to hear a new approach on an old standard.
“At this point it is much more developed than when it began and I also feel like I have had limited opportunity to explore what the possibilities are,” he said.
“It has all been from the ground up for me and the tones and sounds that I am finding is a constant discovery.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 13:05

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