What is ThinAirX Music?
I’m Steve Bowman. I live and work and compose music in Media, PA, just outside of Philadelphia.
ThinAirX is my artist name. I compose and perform all ThinAirX music. Until recently I played keyboards and synthesizers, but two years ago switched to electrified clarinet. (I call it “electrified” clarinet to distinguish from “electric clarinet”—MIDI controllers with clarinet-type keys that play digital samples.)
Electrified clarinet is a genre I invented as a new way to create the same kind of music that I composed and performed using keyboard-driven synthesizers, but with the added expression and nuances of an analog wind instrument. I play an orchestral clarinet with a piezo pickup, and then process the signal with an elaborate array of guitar pedals. No laptop, sequencer, samples, or multi-tracking. As far as I know, nobody else approaches clarinet or electronic music in the same way.
It’s electronic music because it celebrates the endless variety of sounds capable with modern circuitry, yet it owes a lot to classical music in the way it develops musical ideas. And by “classical music” I mean ALL Western music from the 12th to 20th Centuries. I’ve always been an aggressive listener, and I listen all the time to a crazy assortment of music. I have a degree in Music from Harvard.
I call it “electric-symphonic music” as a nod to it’s classical sources, and to distinguish it from dance music and beats that some people associate with electronic music.
I get bored easily and vary my music as much as possible. I use a range of compositional approaches, and push the electronics to make new sounds and textures. The you’ll hear sounds ranging from ambient and dreamy to raucous noise. Harmonies from atonal to modal. Melodies from chromatic to singable themes. Recognizable clarinet timbres to monstrous textures created by flangers and ring modulators. Sometimes all in the same composition.
It’s not hard to hear my special fondness for 20th Century classical music. Electronic sounds spiced with atonality. Compositions of noise, a la Subotnick, Stockhausen, Ligeti, Henry Cowell, George Antheil. At the same time, if you listen carefully and you’ll detect compositional ideas poached from Beethoven and Mozart, Palestrina and Dufay. And Miles Davis and Frank Zappa.
Unlike many electronic and space music acts, I don't just perform free jams. My pieces are composed. They have beginnings, middles, ends, are in separate keys (or modulate) and unfold discernible musical themes. Yet they are not scored note for note (been there, done that). As in jazz––or live Grateful Dead––each performance of a piece is a separate instance of the core composition.
In the end, all the talk and terminology, music history and labels mean little compared to the experience of listening to the music. What matters most is what you experience and think and feel and see when you listen to my music. Then, please, describe to me in your own words what you hear. My hope: the sounds are good enough to be called, simply, “music.”
Electried Clarinet - Gear
Bb Clarinet: LeBlanc Symphonie, 2005 (designed by Backun)
Mouthpiece: Richard Hawkins 'R'
Pickup: PiezoBarrel (installed in the clarinet barrel) >
EHX Pitchfork (pitch shifter) >
Eventide PitchFactor (pitch expander) >
Eventide ModFactor (tone modulation) >
Eventide TimeFactor (delay) > >
Pigtronix Infinity (looper 1) Pigtronix Infinity (looper 2)
> > Nemesis (delay) >
TC Electronic Hall of Fame (reverb) >
[ stereo out to recording and speakers]
No laptop, samples, sequencers, or pre-recorded anything. Recorded directly to stereo. No multi-tracking.
“Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments. ”
— John Cage, 1937