Tapping – but limited to

Dominic Frasca.

from http://www.dominicfrasca.combiographyMeet the anti-Yngwie.

Personally tapped by minimalist godfather Steve Reich to debut his “Electric Guitar Phase” and recent winner of Guitar Player’s Guitar Hero competition, Dominic Frasca arrives fully with Deviations. A rebel at every turn, the man Entertainment Weekly called “Eddie Van Halen for eggheads” transmutates formal beauty into elegant atmosphere that can make conversation equally with Philip Glass, post-rock legends Tortoise, or late underground acoustic legend John Fahey.

A dazzling architecture of modern sound looms behind the eight tracks of the acoustic guitarist’s solo debut, which includes Glass’s “Two Pages,” as well as Frasca’s own 23-minute title track centerpiece. Underscored by rigorous grids of percussive counterrhythm, Frasca tweaks textures from an arsenal of guitars self-mutated to include nylon and steel strings, as well as individual pick-ups wired to process through his laptop.

“Even from day one, I was modifying my instruments,” Frasca laughs. Growing up in Akron, Ohio in the late ’70s, Frasca — like many — first picked up a guitar in response to the crunching siren’s call of AC/DC’s Back in Black. Unlike many, however, the guitar the teenaged Frasca happened to pick up belonged to his older brother (stashed away in the closet since the ’60s), and only had one string. Frasca went to work.

A Hendrix phase predictably followed, and in 1985, Frasca traveled west, to the University of Arizona. “I did the serious classical guitar thing for about a year,” he says. “But I had this realization at the end of my freshman year: I just wasn’t listening to the music I was playing. It wasn’t right. I loved the concept of what you could with it, but I just couldn’t relate to 19th century parlor music.”Enter minimalism. “It had all the elements of rock: it was loud, it had great rhythm, it had great drive, but it was still heady.”Wholly uninterested in the guitar competition mentality fostered by collegiate music departments, Frasca found himself at odds with professors in Ohio, Arizona, and the green pastures of Yale University. Following his own course, he soon began arranging.Though they didn’t hit off until after Yale, Frasca also encountered a valuable co-conspirator in composer Mark Mellits. “He was just one of those guys you looked at and thought ‘I’d like to be friends with him,'” Frasca says. “You could tell the guy wrote cool music.

“Reacquainted at Cornell through a mutual friend, the two repaired to Mellits’ apartment, where — removing their shoes — discovered that each wore a pair of mismatched brown and blue socks, on the opposite feet. “It was kind if meant to be,” Frasca assesses.The creative partnership sees full bloom on Deviations. Mellits’ pen informs four of the disc’s seven compositions, including the ethereal “Lefty’s Elegy” (inspired a Lefty Frizzell favorite of Mellits’ late father), and the disc-closing “Dometude” (from a series of etudes composed as a Hanukah present to Frasca’s family). Not a guitarist, Mellits composes blissfully unaware of the acrobatics his friend might have to undertake to arrange his music.Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and Mellits’ music is a brutal parent. Since Frankensteining half of an electric guitar neck (frets filed off) to a six-string acoustic, Frasca has been ready.

Whether drilling holes in the fretboard to mount peg-like mini-capos or affixing layers of cardboard to fill rhythms on, Frasca is willing to adapt his 6, 8, and 10-string guitars to any piece of music.It also lends Frasca a theatricality he’s been happy to embrace — anything to shake off the staid traditions of the concert hall. One notable performance at Oberlin College in the mid-1990s included suitably adult background imagery while — inspired by the same gruesome story which spawned the Coen brothers’ Fargo — Frasca ran a stunt guitar through a wood chipper. Minimalist guitar, indeed.

“His performance amounted to an assault on the audience,” reported the campus paper of the notoriously liberal conservatory. “Frasca should not be invited back.”Necessity reared her head again when Frasca endured career-threatening blowouts on both hands — his right in 1996, his left in 1999 — following intense practice. So Frasca arranged Steve Reich’s “Violin Phase” for electric guitar, which he could play. Through an intermediary in Bang on a Can’s Mark Stewart, Reich heard Frasca’s recording, and subsequently featured the guitarist on Triple Quartet (Nonesuch, 2001).

With a home base in The Monkey — his utopian rehearsal studio/laboratory/performance space in midtown Manhattan — the rebellious student now almost inadvertently wins the type of competition he once couldn’t enter. There are many deviations between points A and B, and Dominic Frasca has seen quite a few. Eat your heart out, shredders.

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