December 13, 2010
Last signed in: March 28, 2013
Acoustic Double-Neck Guitarist Ian Ethan began a journey into truly uncharted territory when he picked up this seldom-seen 18-string instrument in 2005 after leaving the Berklee College of Music. While most who venture to play the instrument are either baffled by or unaware of the possibilities that it offers (its history seems to peg it as more of a stage prop than a valid musical tool), for him it is simply "the most effective and intuitive means I've found to translate into sound the things I'm hearing in my head, and to me, one of the most interesting lenses through which to explore new compositional ideas. I don't know why, but in the first 6 seconds after I picked it up I knew and could feel that I had found something incredibly right for me." His deep connection with the instrument is evident, to say the least; for as rare as the double-neck guitar itself may be, the way he plays it is even more unique. Drawing on a diverse musical background that saw him learning piano, drums, saxophone, electric guitar and bass beginning at the age of five, his strikingly-unconventional, self-invented approach to the double-neck guitar is mesmerizing to behold. Driven by necessity as a composer, he has developed nearly a dozen different playing techniques which he fluidly combines, fully engaging the entire array of strings, frets, tuners, and soundboards in a marked departure from its history as a visual stage prop for glam rockers. And while his performances are visually intriguing to say the least, it is not showmanship but rather the sincere desire to accurately communicate the harmonically rich, multi-layered music of his composing (or "discovery", as he prefers to refer to the process) that has impelled him every step of the way. At times intensely percussive and complex rhythmically, Ethan's music is just as often spacious, delicate, and melodic, pulling listeners along with him Into Open Land (the title of his 2008 debut.) Today his performances take this already multi-faceted, three-dimensional sound and multiply it exponentially with his very careful, intentional, and musical employment of an electronic looping device which allows him to record, layer, and re-orchestrate the phrases that he plays live. Multiple simultaneous melodies, rhythms, and harmonies weave in and out of eachother, often re-emerging slightly transformed in a subsequent piece until all of the ideas seem to merge into one grand realization of connectivity. Even as he continues to forge ahead with the double-neck, another unique instrument has found its way into his music. The small, unassuming African kalimba has triggered the enthusiastic interest of audiences of all ages and backgrounds across the country. Though at first glance the diminutive 12-key "thumb piano" almost seems toy-like, its surprisingly rich and mellow tone serves as a refreshing alternative voice to the double-neck in his live performances. At the same time, its connection to the rest of Ethan's music becomes clear through the kalimba's percussive and melodic nature, and in the way that he uses an unusual instrument in his own way to deliver new music that speaks in a way that words cannot. As one listener in California commented: "Ian's music is phenomenal - watching him play is not 'listening to music'...it's a full mind experience. Transporting."