Lost & Found

Sean Shibe

Lost & Found

Lost & Found, guitar phenomenon Sean Shibe’s 2022 album, features an eclectic fusion of musical styles straddling 10 centuries. On paper, medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen and 20th-century renegade Julius Eastman may appear unlikely bedfellows, yet in common with all the composers on this album, they were outsiders who specialized in conjuring up alternative visions. “I was definitely trying to create a sense of wonder,” Shibe tells Apple Music, “of free flow, of living in the moment—an Arcadian kind of gentle ecstasy. Lost & Found captures the diversity of aesthetics, directions, and archetypes available to composers on the outer fringes who each have their own distinct ambience.” Yet over and above the music’s powerful sense of otherworldliness, these are all pieces Shibe was keen to play but felt were unsuited to the classical guitar. “I wanted to find out how far I could take them into an authentically electric world,” he explains. “These pieces have meanings that go beyond those the composer may have intended, and I felt the electric guitar was the instrument best-suited to achieve their potential.” To realize his vision, Shibe selected two classic electric guitars—a Fender and a PRS. Additionally, he employed a range of specialist pedals, from simple reverbs to the Microcosm pedal, which helped shape the album’s soundworld. “It has a huge variety of effects on it,” he enthuses. “Most notably the particle effect, which I used on Hildegard’s O Coruscans to make it sound more twinkly, more cosmic.” Helping out, wherever possible, were the actual composers. “When we were recording the pieces by Oliver Leith, Meredith Monk, and Shiva Feshareki,” Shibe recalls, “we bounced them back to the composers immediately for their comments and approval.” Yet above all, this bracing collection celebrates the electric guitar’s potential for revitalizing all musical genres. “With the electric guitar, you can add on effects pedals, turn up the volume to 11, try different amplifiers, and endlessly customize your instrument in a way that doesn’t fundamentally alter or damage it,” Shibe points out. “I believe the electric guitar has a vital role to play in the future of contemporary music, and I hope that this album makes that case.” Read on as Shibe guides us through each track on Lost & Found. O Viridissima Virga “Programmatically, we wanted to begin with something very simple and then bookend the album with the cosmic idea of Buddha. It sets the scene with where we’re going over the next couple of tracks—the children songs retain the innocence, while the Moondog pieces still play into that. It’s the gentlest track. The idea of the freshest green branch feeds into poet William Blake, whose Songs of Innocence initially talks about the piper piping merry tunes—a very pastoral vision.” Children’s Song No. 1 “Chick Corea’s Children’s Songs were, of course, originally intended for children, but they occupy things that are sometimes innocent and sometimes a bit darker, which is also part of childhood experience. I came to these, initially, through the guitarist Forbes Henderson, who I know very well and who made these arrangements with Corea’s approval. The grounded, oscillating rhythmic simplicity of No. 1 feels especially effective after the pastoral innocence of the opening Bingen.” Continuance “This is the first piece that’s multi-tracked—it’s written for four guitarists. It was composed during the first lockdown, when we were all communicating via split screens. Whereas the mysticism of the previous two pieces collude to produce something a little bit dark, Daniel’s piece is much more optimistic. The continuance idea is not ‘life goes on’; it’s more along the lines of ‘there is something in the distance that you will find.’ I think it’s very special. It’s brief but condensed in the best of ways.” Children’s Song No. 4 “There was always a danger with this album that it could become too ambient. This is one of several pieces intended to bring us gently back to earth. It is also completely different to the first children’s setting. There’s something a little more cynical, darker, almost underhand about it. The atmosphere is really rather menacing, so the challenge was how to make it even more menacing! So, we’ve been quite generous with the post effects here and added quite a lot of distortion, which is something that leads us, of course, into Sea Horse.” Sea Horse “This is the first of three pieces by Moondog and works incredibly well on electric guitar, as well as live in concert. The seahorse appears, on the surface, to be perfectly innocent but is not quite what it seems. Although originally written for piano, I found that with an electric guitar at my disposal, I could respond freely to what the music was inspiring me to do. The results could not be more different from Moondog’s originals, which proves how truly eclectic his music is.” Pastoral “The idea here was to get people’s feet back on the ground. It’s quite close to Corea’s Children’s Song No. 1. One thing I’ve noticed with Moondog [composer of Pastoral] is that sometimes his endings are a bit drastic, a bit sudden, which can be fine, but I did feel that there was room here for something a little bit ‘out there’ at the end, so I added a little improvised sequence to help ease our way into High on a Rocky Ledge.” High on a Rocky Ledge “This track conjures up an image of the jangle of a band in a lazy bar—I was trying to evoke a sense of going to a local dive bar with crap on the TV, drinking with friends, and generally hanging out: the sensation of freedom, of laziness, of no rush. Following a declaration of childhood, music with a slightly cynical edge, and something more aggressive [Pastoral], we are now just chilled and relaxed.” Children’s Song No. 2 “The Children’s Songs are so distinct from one another, and I wanted to discover the overriding impetus of each one. Compared to the other Songs, this one has a hint of darkness up until the radiant ending. The album, up to this point, has these little swells of tension, of something feeling slightly less OK, and this is just the final swell before Leith’s Pushing My Thumb Through a Plate. It somehow has a tense sound all of its own.” Pushing My Thumb Through a Plate “This is the point in the album at which our feet are no longer on the ground. Nightfall is approaching, and something is about to happen. It’s like the pagan end of sacred—like praying to the Madonna for healthy waters and then praying to the other Madonna for something else. This is quite an early piece by Leith and was originally written for harp, so I’ve kept it quite acoustic. Its harmonic plasticity is incredibly distinctive: I haven’t heard anything else quite like it.” NightfallPushing My Thumb Through a Plate is meandering and levitational, so it was good to have something more grounded, like Nightfall, to remind us of where we are. The music begins quite logically, but then the underlying passacaglia slowly goes away and is replaced by something that is rather extraordinary. Composer Meredith Monk doesn’t grant permission to perform her music very often, so we were relieved not only to be allowed to record Nightfall, but also that she was very happy with the mix.” Peace Piece “This kind of grew out of the idea that, essentially, jazz musicians like Bill Evans (the composer of Peace Piece) writing in a classical vein is always interesting. Of the other composers on the album, Corea kind of did that, while Moondog somehow cuts it in many ways as someone who was more of the classical tradition than anything else. Evans lies on the fringes, and so too in a way does Oliver Leith—a lot of his stuff is quite poppy and slightly more ambient. Shiva Feshareki may compose classical music, but actually she’s a DJ and does dance nights and stuff like that.” O sacrum convivium! “From the moment I heard O sacrum convivium, I thought how well this piece would sound on the guitar. I tried to find a way of making it work on the classical instrument, but it’s just not possible. So, this represents a new direction for the album insofar that it is, from my point of view, only feasible on the electric guitar—not only because of its ability to sustain sounds like voices, but also because of its unique power to transmogrify things that are quite familiar.” Venus/Zohreh “I like this idea of prayer raising us up into the cosmos. Venus/Zohreh was written originally for string quartet or string orchestra, so its composer, Shiva Feshareki, and I had to work together on finding the right pitches for the notes. In many ways, this piece is the most acoustic of the last three tracks on the album and fits perfectly with the idea of Venus and motherhood, referencing things that have a link with faith or spirituality but don’t plainly fit into it.” O Coruscans Lux Stellarum “I wanted to come up with something that was drastically different to O Viridissima Virga [Track 1]. They have the use of a drone in common, but to be honest, that’s about it. We rendered O Coruscans through the particle effects available on the Microcosm pedal, and then added a lot of reverb. This is not the hellfire that the text prescribes, but it’s something a little gentler and more ambient—and the direct tonic one needs before Buddha.” Buddha “The score of Buddha, such as it is, is a music ‘egg’ and it doesn’t really have a defined structure as such—you can’t even be sure whether we are moving down the page vertically or across horizontally. I made it quite slow so that there was a lot of room to bring out the cadences that I found in Moondog’s graphic. I then emphasized that through slides and effects in order to establish some kind of dynamic system that would help create a cogent piece.”

O Viridissima Virga (Arr. for Electric Guitar by Shibe)
1
Children's Song No. 1
2
Continuance
3
Children's Song No. 4
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Sea Horse
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Pastoral
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High on a Rocky Ledge (Second Movement from H'Art Songs, Op. 82)
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Children's Song No. 2
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Pushing My Thumb Through a Plate
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Nightfall
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Peace Piece
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O sacrum convivium!, I/18 (Arr. for Electric Guitar by Shibe)
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Venus / Zohreh
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O Choruscans Lux Stellarum (Arr. for Electric Guitar by Shibe)
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Buddha
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