In which we take a short break from harp guitars for this brief personal story…
Leave it to an old folkie like me (no puns, please) to be completely clueless about Gotye, the creative multi-Grammy winning, Billboard-topping, alternative music pop star.
All I knew was that a musical instrument dealer colleague of mine (on his first Miner Museum visit this past weekend) was bringing a couple friends, including his singer-songwriter friend Wally.
Mitchell Manger (at left) is a music attorney who also runs Antiquity Music, where I had obtained my Chordephon mechanical zither last year. He’s also part of the team behind the very cool Wheelharp, which readers may remember me mentioning in my 2013 NAMM blog. While he deals mainly in rare keyboards (acoustic and electronic), he stocks and has an interest in many other antique musical instruments so had been keen to see my growing plucked strings collection.
By complete coincidence, he had just met Abaji (fresh from his own museum visit a week or so before) when his boss Bill took a meeting with Abaji’s music rights partner Fabrice. Small world! They again put the bug in Mitchell’s ear, while Bill (the only guitar-player among Saturday’s guests) asked to tag along. Bill Hochberg (center) is a music attorney and journalist, writing on occasion for The Atlantic; a couple interesting pieces he forwarded to me include “When Robots Write Songs” and “Just How Much of Musical History Has Been Lost to History.”
Belgian-Australian Wally and his friend Maud live in New York, and happened to be in town for the weekend, so Mitch asked to bring them along. They know each other through the world of rare and obscure electronic musical equipment, Mitchell a dealer and Wally a collector of all manner of old drum machines, synthesizers, samplers, you-name-it, which he utilizes in his recordings.
Having little time or warning to bone up on my Gotye (turns out my wife Jaci, both our sisters and all the nieces were already fans), I didn’t realize I was hanging with an honest-to-gosh rock star. Rather, I had a wonderful afternoon visiting with an interesting new group of friends including Wally (I still have a hard time thinking of him as Gotye), who is clearly a kindred geek.
First topic was animation, as we discussed the virtues of Disney (instigated by my Disneyana room). Again, I would only learn later of Wally’s interests and the wonderful and creative animation his colleagues have created for his music videos.
The whole group was like kids in a candy store in the music room, with lots of questions and insights. Everyone (guitarist or not) insisted on trying the Harmony to hear its amazing, stereophonic sound.
Over coffee and scones (thanks, Jaci) I listened to the guys talk obscure keyboards and vintage electronic music technology. Turns out Wally knows as much about that as I know about harp guitars (probably more). He’s a serious and passionate geek (like me!), doing research, collecting, sampling sounds, etc. – all for its own reward – then using all the knowledge and sounds at his disposal to craft his unique music (at least this was my takeaway from the short time with him – I’m sure I’ll get lectures from his rabid fans!). He went on at length about Raymond Scott’s Electronium, the whereabouts of the original Mellotron tapes, touching on Metheny’s Orchestrion and so many other things I had only peripheral knowledge of. He could write a book. Speaking of…
…well, we were privy to some cool new potential Gotye projects, which I suppose I shouldn’t be revealing. Suffice it to say, it runs the gamut from extremely personal and poetic songwriting to channeling-his-inner-geek unprecedented creativity. We got to brainstorming about multi-media presentation/packaging, which led to us sneaking off for a quick perusal of my pop-up book collection, discussing the joys and intricacies of paper engineering (again, he has encyclopedic knowledge).
In short, I had a blast!
I’m anxious to see what comes next from Wally, as I’m a new fan.
And I see the females in the household were obviously smitten with the talented and charming musician…