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SECOND SHIFT Music Series Performance: RHYS CHATHAM

“Without him, there would be no Sonic Youth, no Jesus and Mary Chain, no My Bloody Valentine . . . a towering figure among six-string aficionados.” – Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune

Rhys Chatham is a composer, guitarist and trumpet player from Manhattan, currently living in Paris. In the 1970s, Chatham began creating a new urban music that fused the minimalism of John Cale and Tony Conrad with punk rock’s elemental fury. His breakthrough sound altered rock’s DNA and laid a path for bands like Sonic Youth and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Photo: Estelle Hanania

Photo: Estelle Hanania

Chatham was introduced to electronic music and composition by Morton Subotnick in the late 60s; in the early seventies he studied composition with La Monte Young. These musicians, along with Terry Riley and Tony Conrad, were the founders of American minimalism, and were a profound influence on Chatham's work.

Chatham’s early work was characterized by the use of multiple electric guitars in special tunings; it culminated with An Angel Moves Too Fast to See, his 1989 symphony for one hundred electric guitars. Chatham’s subsequent compositions for guitar orchestra include A Crimson Grail (indoor version), A Secret Rose and A Crimson Grail (outdoor version), which was commissioned by the City of Paris for the La Nuit Blanche Festival and released on Nonesuch Records in 2010. 

Chatham’s work also includes collaborations, and improvised and compositional pieces, for brass instruments. In 2014 he began touring a solo program featuring electric guitar in a Pythagorean tuning; Bb trumpet; and bass, alto and C flutes. 

“…spacious drones shimmering with intricate harmonic effects.” –– Chicago Reader

“It might justly be considered music to pray to.” — Will Hermes, The New York Times

“Surging phosphorescence… Uplifting.” –– David Fricke, Rolling Stone


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