Temple of Thunder

Here’s an interesting found-music recording that took place in the summer of 1996 at the Parthenon in Nashville.

Here in Nashville we have a life size replica of the original Parthenon in Greece. It was originally built for The 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition and was meant to be temporary structure but which eventually became the center piece of a large city park. Over time it has been renovated to become a permanent fixture and one of the reasons Nashville is called the Athens of the South. Ironically it’s Athens, Georgia that has produced more interesting bands than ever came out of Nashville.


a cool photo by local photographer Jeremy Holmes

Anyway, I had been asked to play some music at the Parthenon for a summer parks concert series. I asked if it was alright to play drums in there along with electric guitar. They agreed and so I called my friend Larry Chaney, a wonderfully creative guitarist who now lives in Austin and plays with Edwin McCain. Larry had a great kind of Frippertronics rig happening at the time and when I called I just said to show up and we would jam.

It was a hot and muggy day and I debated bringing some recording gear in midst of my drum loading sweat. I knew it was a unique opportunity and was really ready to blow it off but in the end; threw a couple AT 4033 mics, a 2 channel Telefunkin mic pre and a DAT machine in the car.

The Parthenon is a huge reverb chamber with about a 10-12 second reverb decay. Playing there is challenging because of this, but at the same time if you play to the room some amazing things can happen. In the center of the space is a massive 45 foot statue of Athena created by friend and local sculptor Alan LeQuire who has an international reputation for producing huge pieces.

We set up in front of Athena and I just set the mics up about 15 feet out in a close stereo pair about 3-4 inches apart and angled at about 80-90 degrees. I was to one side and Larry to the other but he also had stereo speakers on stands. We were pretty set to go when I realized I didn’t have any head phones to get a level on the recording rig, so I just eyeballed it and would glance at the meters once in a while during the performance.

During the concert a massive thunderstorm developed and so our performance took on a interactive quality with the storm. The sky was black and tons of wind and rain swirling about outside the 25ft doors that were open during the concert. At one point in the recording there is a huge thunder clap and we happily oblige with drums and wacked sounds. It was a blast and over way too soon.

I had actually forgotten that I recorded this and few days later popped in the tape to see what had happened. I was amazed at the depth and stereo image of the sound and interaction we had had together, it was way better than I could have imagined. As in any free jam, music will wander, but on a whole we played very compositionally.

The original release was laid out for a non-stop recoding. Here I have separated it into tracks with some fades.

I’m considering offering this under a creative commons license and opening this unique recording to some collaboration. If you would like to acquire the full bandwith recordings for your own exploration let me know and we can discuss it.


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