One never knows what the woman passing you on the street has going on, or the guy behind the counter at the corner shop. Take Alex Carpenter who, with his partner Maegan Hayward, runs the East Village Vintage Collective on East 12th Street.
It’s a great little shop with reasonable prices and you are hereby forgiven for not having a clue that Carpenter is an accomplished musician, sound editor, video artist, sound effects creator and painter.
His New York City story starts in 2007, when he left his native Australia hoping to work with the avant-garde minimalist composer Lamonte Young, who was the subject of his thesis in college. Not only did that dream come true, but he also won the green card lottery, which is actually a complicated process and not exactly like buying a ticket on the corner.
While making some cash as a freelance accountant, Carpenter continued the musical explorations that he had started in Australia, with a very conscious mindset.
“I realized that I had to keep my music separate from my money making endeavors,” he states. Performed under the moniker “Music of Transparent Means,” the music has taken different forms, using as many as 21 musicians — including strings, woodwinds, keyboard , brass, guitar, sax – to solo guitar performances like the one that he is performing this week.
“There’s a saturation of sound that you get with multiple players,” he explains, “and I try to get a similar effect with solo guitar and the use of multiple delay pedals.”
There’s also a saturation of ideas, as he has absorbed a wildly eclectic collection of influences.
“I love Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, the Velvet Underground, Phil Niblock, The Beatles, Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, Glenn Branca, Alvin Lucier, Heavy Metal, John Cage — I got into it all,” he says. “My most life changing experience was attending an 18 hour performance of Erik Satie’s ‘Vexations.’”
He goes on to note that sometimes what he takes away from certain groups — The Beatles, for example — is “the sound more than the chord progression.”
Sound itself was also a source of income, as he found a gig creating sound effects for large and low budget films. The jobs entailed everything from simple bits like the sound of footsteps to the horror film that required the audio of a dog eating a person’s neck.
“I did that using a wet bagel, a grapefruit and raw pasta,” he informs us, sounding quite proud of his accomplishment.
Going in the opposite direction, Carpenter likes to provide visual accompaniment for his music. The setup for the videos that will run during his live performance is a visual mirror of the sound.
While the guitar performance involves playing with delayed sounds and looping, the videos are created with visual loops that pile images on top of previous images, with a simple setup that recalls Andy Warhol’s ‘Screen Tests’ combined with a bit of Lucas Samaras and a 60’s happening.
Carpenter films his subjects, who are sometimes sitting still, sometimes repeating an action or slowly turning, while manipulating the three lights in various patterns.
“My mind tends to wander at a concert if there is not something that is visually engaging,” Carpenter explains. ” I’ve always been into video and I’m looking for a deep focus experience. It’s like focusing on a candle when meditating.”
“Alex Carpenter and the Live Audio Delay System” will be performing a solo guitar improvisation, accompanied by videos at 3rd and B’zaar this Thursday, Oct. 7, to celebrate the release of some brand new (hand-numbered, limited edition) vinyl.
Previously released on CD, “Chord From The Second Delphic Hymn” is a live group performance from 2005 that has been remastered and given a new cover and liner notes by de la Catessen Records, which is helmed by Luke Altman back in Adelaide.
As to the sounds that he is creating, Carpenter shies away from the usual terminology.
“Music is too loaded a term,” he states. “And I don’t really like to use the word minimalism. I’m not so much composing as I am tending to the birth of a sonic organism. You don’t need any academic knowledge to understand it or a music degree to enjoy it.”
More info on Alex Carpenter’s music can be found at transparentmeans.net, on Instagram at @transparentmeans and on bandcamp.com.
The record release party/performance takes place Thursday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m., at 3rd and B’zaar, 191 East 3rd St. There’s a $10 suggested donation per guest.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.