The first time I saw Ben Jameson perform was at the new music series Kammer Klang, at Dalston’s Cafe Oto, in 2014. He performed Jacob TV’s Grab It, a piece in which a soloist (originally written for tenor sax, this version was for electric guitar) battles with an almost violently loud soundtrack made of emotionally charged vocal samples from life-sentenced prisoners. The text is blurted out thick and fast, making a forceful and frenetic duet that thrusts itself into the ears and onto the eyes.
Until recently, little did I know how significant Ben’s identity as a guitarist was to his compositional practice. He frequently draws upon the pop, rock, metal and folk traditions in which that instrument has come to play such an important role; some of the titles of his pieces include “Power Chord Study (after Black Sabbath)”, “Two Captain Beefheart Arrangements” and “Song for Pete Seeger”.
The intersection of genres, with all of their attendant social and cultural layers, is also a subject of Ben’s academic writing. In a recent article he wrote for the journal Tempo, he tackles issues surrounding the electric guitar’s social and cultural status in Tristan Murail’s Vampyr (1984), which, he suggests, has more in common with contemporary virtuosic rock of 80’s than the composer is perhaps aware. Whether we like it or not, playing something on an electric guitar which resembles a rock or metal riff has cultural weight, and engages with issues germane to rock and metal, whether they be radical freedom, masculinity, or power. Rather than shy away from these issues, Ben tackles them head on. Continue reading “Better Know A Weisslich: Ben Jameson”