Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks

Tim Brady

… différents styles musicaux propres à la guitare, passant de nappes harmoniques a des murs sonores… Revue & Corrigée, France

Brady explore avec bonheur l’espace sonore électroacoustique. Voir, Québec

Twenty Quartet Inch Jacks is Tim Brady’s first release on the Ambiance Magnétiques label and with this record Brady moves his work as both a composer and a guitarist into new territory. Well-known for his innovative guitar work, this new CD combines a major new work for 20 guitars with 2 works which make extensive use of sampling and computer sound design.

The title track is a work commissioned by the international theatre festival Les Coups de Théâtre. The commission was for a live performance work for 20 young guitarists lasting 45 minutes, but soon after Brady began composing the work it became clear that the recorded version of the work was taking on a life of its own. Using no electronics or sampling, and limiting himself to one guitar (a Steinberger GM4T), one fuzz box, a volume pedal and a slide, Brady set out to create a work that explored of the fundamental character of the guitar while creating a new sense of what a guitar ensemble could sound like. Simple picking, big chords, noisey strings, bluesy string bends, open string pull-offs and percussive attacks are the elements that combine to create striking musical textures and evocative atmospheres. The work divides into 8 sections, but is meant to be played and listened to as a single, continuos piece. The human voice (Brady’s on the CD) is also an integral part of the sound world, as the theatrical nature of the work bridges the gap between pure music and live performance.

The human voice play an important role in the 2 other pieces on the CD. Music Box Bell Curves (“Hello Paris!”) was commissioned by Ina-GRM for the 2001 Radio-France festival Présences in Paris. Using dozens of samples of small toy instruments, which he has collected for 40 years, and samples from a “sonic party” (where these instrumenta are played by his friends), Brady created a dramatic tape part that frames a heavily processed live guitar part.

The last work on the CD grew out of a commission by the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Glasgow (Scotland). In 2001, Brady created an installation piece entitled public space/private music, using samples of Sauchiehall Street and sounds from the CCA building. After the installation the sound of these samples stuck in his mind and he eventually re-worked the samples into a larger piece for guitar and tape. The simple guitar part creates a sense of dialogue with the textures of the tape, moving to a rhythmic climax and resolving to the quiet sounds of a workman whistling a hint of a tune as he sweeps the floor at the CCA. The guitar returns, playing quiet harmonics as the sounds of the streets of Glasgow bring the work to a close.

CD (AM 107)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 107
  • 2002
  • UCC 771028110728
  • Total duration: 52:50
  • Jewel case
  • 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
  • 90 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press

Modern Composition

Andy Hamilton, The Wire, no. 206, February 1, 2004

Canadian composer/guitarist Tim Brady crosses the genres of electroacoustic composition, dance scores and improv. Based in Montréal, he’s drawn more to New York downtown than French musique concrète tradition, though Music Box Bell Curves on Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks was commissioned by Ina-GRM. That piece and Sauchiehall Street on the same disc use the now traditional if inflexible technology of live performer plus tape. The title track originated as instrumental music theatre for 20 young guitarists, but this is a multitrack studio recording by the composer. Sadly, Brady’s brand of domesticated Jimi Hendrix offers technical mastery without too many fresh ideas. Though there’s a raw energy to the saxophone quartet title track of Unison Rituals, performed by Quasar, this disc of compositions mostly for his ensemble Bradyworks is no more inspiring, and you wonder whether the composer really deserves his academic support network.

2 x Brady, 20 x 1

Andrew Hurlbut, Musicworks, no. 87, October 1, 2003

For Twenty Quarter lnch Jacks, Brady reclaims his guitarist hat with a joyful vengeance. (The composer cap is still on his head, but noticeably askew.) The title selection is an eight-movement homage to the six-stringed beast, or rather, twenty of the things (see article Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks in Musicworks 85). Originally composed for and performed by a group of student guitarists, this version has Brady supplying all of the voices himself through the wonders of multi-track recording. His own physical voice provides occasional commentary and intones an alphabetical honour roll of guitar greats. The music pays homage to Steve Reich’s seminal 1987 work, Electric Counterpoint, yet is uniquely and compellingly Brady. Musk Box Bell Curves, (Hello Paris…), and Sauchiehall Street are scored for guitar and tape, and Brady manipulates the elements of each piece into a seamless whole. The former offers moments of transcendental beauty amid studied washes of sonic colour, although I find occasional vocal injections (Hello Paris…) to be intrusive at best. More eloquent is Sauchiehall Street, which captures Brady doing what he does best: creating vivid, imaginative soundscapes into which his own fluent guitarisms blend effortlessly.

Fans of Tim Brady’s guitar work may enjoy Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks, but others might be wise to start with his earlier Justin Time releases Scenarios, Imaginary Guitars, and Strange Attractors.


James Hale, Downbeat, no. 70:6, June 1, 2003

On one movement of his suite Twenty Quarter-Inch Jacks, Tim Brady name-cecks an almost-complete alphabet of influences that ranges from obvious choices like Bill Frisell and Jimi Hendrix to unusaal pickers like Mike Nesmith. That list tells you everything you need to know about bath Brady’s love of guitar and his eclecticism. Those twin loves characterize his music, which is full of sweeping waves of sound, jump-cut juxtapositions and sudden transitions to exquisite guitarplaying.

The title suite is a guitarist’s fantasy— composed for 20 players, but performed here solely by Brady. Over its half-hour length he explores the sonic possibilities of 120 vibrating strings and no small amount of feedback. Ranging from the ringing waves of Harmonic Fields to the fuzzed-out crunch of the aptly named Metal the piece is richly textured and intriguing, like a huge maze of sound caves. Music Box Bell Curves (Hello Paris!) has all the earmarks of a Brady composition, but the disparate tonal episodes and bursts of noisy dissonance don’t hang together as well as they might. A second piece for solo guitar and tape — an eight-minute excerpt from his composition Public space/private music — is more succesfull as a sonic streetscape.


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 56, June 1, 2003

Transfuge du label Justin Time sur lequel il a produit huit CDs le compositeur et guitariste canadien rejoint le collectif Ambiances Magnétiques.

Deux facettes de son travail nous sont livrées à quelques mois d’intervalles. Twenty Quarter Inchs Jack reflète son travail de compositeur/guitariste, tandis que Unison Rituals s’attache davantage à la composition, l’interprétation des œuvres (5) y étant dévolue a un quatuor de saxophones, un ensemble et un big band, Tim Brady lui-même n’y officiant que sur un titre.

L’œuvre principale du premier enregistrement, qui lui donne son titre, fut à l’origine une création pour une vingtaine de guitaristes ados, dans le but implicite de décloisonner leur(s) approche(s) de l’instrument. L’enregistrement a cependant été réalisé en studio par Tim Brady. Cette suite en huit sections aborde donc différents styles musicaux propres à la guitare, passant de nappes harmoniques a des murs sonores que ne renieraient ni Rhys Chatham, ni Sonic Youth, ainsi que différentes techniques: glissando, accords, répétitions, grattages… Au passage (section 6 an alphabet of guitarists), il évoque les mânes de quelques guitaristes.

Les deux autres pièces relèvent davantage d’une approche électroacoustique de l’instrument, la guitare y étant associée à des bandes magnétiques. Music Box Bell Curves (“Hello Paris!”) fut présentée au festival Présence de Radio France en janvier 2001: elle met en jeu une guitare un peu plaintive, évoquant parfois quelques ambiances floydiennes de l’époque More, traversée par des effets électroniques variés et fortement rythmés, créant une ambiance inquiétante. Plus courte, Sauchichall Street est une pièce d’une facture plus courante: progression d’une interaction guitare/bandes d’abord sur un mode calme, presque atmosphérique puis peu à peu plus rythmé, voire agressif pour s’achever à nouveau dans la quiétude.

… différents styles musicaux propres à la guitare, passant de nappes harmoniques a des murs sonores…


François Couture, Ici Montréal, January 9, 2003

Le guitariste et compositeur Tim Brady fait le saut chez Ambiances Magnétiques. Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks regroupe trois œuvres très différentes. La pièce-titre, de 30 minutes, est une suite pour 20 guitares électriques, toutes jouées par Brady (contrairement au concert, évidemment). Pot-pourri stylistique qui se veut un regard sur l’histoire de l’instrument, elle roule avec la pédale ludique bien enfoncée. Elle rejoint un public plus large avec ses accents rock et demeure d’une écoute agréable et intrigante, mais ce n’est pas le grand Brady des 10 Collaborations (chez Justin Time, 2000). Les deux autres pièces sont beaucoup plus solides, surtout Music Box Bell Curve (Hello Paris!), 14 captivantes minutes d’art électroacoustique croisé avec les rythmiques d’Art Zoyd.3/5


François Couture, AllMusic, November 21, 2002

After releasing a pile of albums on the Montréal jazz label Justin Time, which despite its progressive outlook on the genre was always a little overwhelmed by the experimental nature of his productions, Tim Brady delivered in 20 Quarter Inch Jacks his first CD for Ambiances Magnétiques. And a good one it is, ironically lighter than some of his previous recordings yet still challenging and charged with that special Brady-esque guitar humor. The disc contains three new works. First up is the thundering title track, a suite in eight parts running for a total of 30 minutes. Written for 20 electric guitar players (all parts performed by Brady on this recording, but it has been played live with an ensemble), the piece attempts to run through the history of the instrument in a whimsical setting of narrator-and-examples. Movement titles like Metal, Waves, Harmonic Fields or Big Chords are as programmatic as can be. In the Opening, a multi-tracked Brady introduces the notes strummed one by one, à la Viv Stanshall in Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Taken as a whole the piece presents intricate arrangements, some crunchy playing and good-hearted fun. It could be reasonably deemed too light by some detractors. The sixth part, An Alphabet of Guitarists, is exactly that: Brady calls the name of one guitarist per letter of the alphabet over a group riff left unchanged by these invocations. Its purpose remains uncertain and its presence questionable (guitar fans may also want to debate the composer’s choices). This long piece should not overshadow the presence of Music Box Bell Curves (Hello Paris!), a stunning 14 minutes of electroacoustic music combining wailing guitars, powerful sample treatments and martial rhythms reminiscent of Art Zoyd. The closing Sauchiehall Street is a piece for guitar and tape moving from atmospheric playing to frenzied soloing and back.


Réjean Beaucage, Voir, November 21, 2002

La pièce-titre est une composition pour un chœur de 20 guitares électriques (toutes jouées par Brady ici) et passe en revue les possibilités de l’instrument, du son le plus propre au plus fuzzé et de la mélodie la plus douce au heavy métal. Commandée par le festival Les Coups de Théâtre pour être interprétée par 20 élèves d’écoles secondaires, on pourrait s’attendre à ce que cette musique soit simpliste: or, il n’en est rien et il faudra entendre ça en concert (création le 20 novembre à 21 h à l’espace chorégraphique Jean-Pienre Perreault pour voir si le compositeur n’a pas surestimé ses musiciens! Aussi sur ce disque, une commande de l’Ina-GRM et une autre du Centre for Contemporary Arts de Glasgow, toutes deux pour guitare et bande, où Brady explore avec bonheur l’espace sonore électroacoustique.

Brady explore avec bonheur l’espace sonore électroacoustique.