cello & electric cello
performance / recording
Chris was first introduced to electronic music and studio technology at the Eastman School of Music by two colleagues who played in rock bands in high school (they had synths, guitars, stomp-box effects, amps, and cassette-based multitrack recorders in their dorm rooms). Having access to all these goodies, Chris acquired a small Barcus-Berry transducer (a pickup that sticks on the instrument’s bridge and feeds a small battery powered preamp with a 1/4" mono output). This signal is then fed into delays, reverbs, etc., and out to a standard instrument amplifier. As a strictly classical instrumentalist this was a revelation - and a lot of fun!
However, the problems of feedback inherent in the pickup/amp setup and the desire to really delve into this technology lead Chris to research other avenues of approach. This was when there were only a few instrument makers that made electric cellos. But they existed… and you could get them with more than 4 strings! The idea of an electric cello with almost a 5 octave range was fascinating.
The 5-string electric cello Chris plays was built by Jensen Musical Instruments. It originally had a standard monophonic pickup and was pretty much "off the shelf", but made of beautiful and rare cocobolo wood. His first simple setup was using a 31-band graphic EQ fed into an original Alesis Quadraverb multi-effects unit and out to a Gallien-Krueger 200MB mono amplifier (this was the beginning of an addictively fun but expensive hobby). He has since experimented with harmonizers, loopers, and other gear-lust related permutations as technology evolves. Chris uses the electric cello to explore sounds and musical ideas that he doesn't get exposed to as a classical player: the electric is approached using standard cello performance techniques, but that's where the similarity ends. He leans toward the abstract electronic soundscape side of the musical spectrum: looping, delays, reverbs, and other effects that make the instrument sound decidedly un-cello-like.
“shatterproof”, a minimalist tribute
Chris' original electric cello was refurbished, customized, and retrofitted with updated electronics (see photos on the media page). It has the same physical dimensions as his acoustic cello (down to the curve of the upper bout and the shape of the knee braces) and uses a Series 2000 bridge pickup and an RMC Poly-Drive II preamp. As most guitarists own and play more than one instrument, Chris also has an NS Design CR-4 electric cello for those times when a “normal” 4-string instrument is more appropriate.
Chris' home studio is of the “in-the-box” model centered around an Apple 27" quad core i7 iMac with 24 GB RAM and an evolving array of effects plug-ins. He records into Apple's Logic Pro X via a Focusrite Clarett Thunderbolt audio interface, listens through original Mackie HR-824 Studio Monitors, and is trying hard not to remodel his living room to be a Live Room for recording acoustic cello and string quartets.
“x-lude”, a soundscape