Instruments of Happiness (electric guitars: Tim Brady, Jonathan Barriault, Simon Duchesne, Francis Brunet-Turcotte)
1. Sideways – Louise Campbell
2. Nine kinds of joy – Rose Bolton
3. Traps, taboos, traditions – Andrew Noseworthy
4. Notre-Dame is burning – Andrew Staniland
“Originally performed in a church, this was recorded on a large concert stage with great production quality. Lots to listen to in Andrew Staniland’s Notre Dame is burning with the low intense held note drones building in intensity like a slow- moving fire and contrasting comforting higher notes. Performances are superb, creating a new contemporary wall of electric guitar sounds!” – WholeNote
“After the much praised “The Happiness Handbook”, they had new music dictated to their fingers and strings, each 14 minutes with the lente et tranquille à la recherche du bonheur in mind and with a view to the fact that the four players with spaced apart in a large reverberation room.
‘Sideways’ by Louise Campbell as the first of four coherently presented sentences cleanses the room of unfavorable spirits with little silver hammers. In shimmering pecked waves over whale songs, in windy drifts and in booming, rushing surges in which staccato (pizzicato), legato (bowing?) and rapid hatching are not at all quietly and quietly mixed.” – Bad Alchemy
While the title of Slow, Quiet Music in Search of Electric Happiness does effectively capture the essence of the recording’s character, it doesn’t reference the nuance with which the quartet executes the material. Barriault, Duchesne, and Brunet-Turcotte show themselves to be idea partners to Brady for being so attuned to the vision he’s articulated for both the quartet project and this recording in particular. As group statements go, the album impresses for being fully realized and for faithfully hewing to the originating concept” – Textura
“Instruments of Happiness is not just a new music ensemble, but an all-electric guitar music group that is helping composers expand the repertoire for what might be the most popular instrument in the world. For their third album, the group asked four composers for pieces that lasted exactly 14 minutes, meant to be played with the guitars “very, very distant in a large, reverberant space.” The results work through the sonic possibilities of the instrument, from grinding, metal-edged music to spacious and haunting ambiance.” – Bandcamp
Premiere performance: Feb. 15, 2020 – Le Vivier – Église le Gesù, Montréal Recording : Le Vivier – Amphithéâtre Le Gesù – Aug. 9, 2020
Recording engineer: Morris Apelbaum
Producers: Tim Brady and Morris Apelbaum
Mixing and editing: Tim Brady
Mastering: Tim Brady and Morris Apelbaum
Cover photo: Andrew Staniland
TK497 © 2022 Redshift Music
Since 1983 I have used the spatial element in my music making — call it “surround sound”, “immersive”, or the newly-minted “socially distanced”. It is about the physicality of sound — music that is about the space that it inhabits, not just the notes that are played. In 2014, I started exploring these ideas in a very systematic way with my large guitar ensemble projects, entitled “Instruments of Happiness — les 100 guitares électriques”.
But in 2018 I thought: why not create a small, simple project that explores this idea of spatialized music using just four guitars — the Instruments of Happiness quartet? We had a great space in mind, the Église le Gesù in Montréal, which has a seven-second reverb time. Then, on to inviting the composers: Louise Campbell, Rose Bolton, Andrew Noseworthy and Andrew Staniland.
Each of the four composers was given the same, clear proposal: write a 14-minute piece, synchronised by stopwatches, with the four guitars placed far apart in a large, reverberant space. In addition, the music must reflect the concept of the project — Slow, quiet music in search of electric happiness. In the end, each composer found a unique solution to this artistic proposal, but the entire event, which lasts 56 minutes without intermission, holds together because of the unity of space and purpose.
For the recording, we used a large concert stage, so that we could simulate the distance effects of the church. It was also recorded during the summer of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, so social distancing of the performers was essential. For the production, we used a high-quality digital impulse response reverb to recreate the seven-second reverb of the church (which is a crucial element of the project), while using close-miking on the guitar amplifiers to maintain the detailed sound of the instruments.
To achieve the best listening experience, I suggest you use either real headphones (rather than smartphone earbuds) or loudspeakers with good physical separation in a quiet room, so you can feel the space and the spatial dialogue that each composer exploits to great effect in their work.
My deepest thanks to the composers, performers and technicians who helped make the concert and the recording such enjoyable, memorable artistic events.
Though not represented on this audio recording, the live presentation of the work included a performance in the centre of the space by three dancers from the Sinha Danse company. My thanks to Roger Sinha, Marie-Ève Lafontaine and Citlali Germé-Trevino.
Tim Brady — artistic director — August 2021