Work in Progress

The Violencestring

Guitarist-singer Shelly Blake-Plock kept chipping away at a story - of an abused boy finding solace in the violin - until he had produced an album

October 07, 2007|By Sam Sessa

Guitarist and singer Shelly Blake-Plock's newest project may be his most eclectic and ambitious yet.

Blake-Plock (aka R. Richard Wojewodzki), a 32-year-old who lives in Elkridge, has been a musical force in the local and European experimental folk scenes for several years. His latest album, The Violencestring, bridges the continental gap with a cast of more than a dozen musicians from as far as France and Sweden and as close as the Peabody Institute.

The Violencestring's central narrative centers on a boy abused by his father and mother who seeks solace in the violin. It will be released in America and Europe on Dec. 11.

Inspiration --I [discovered] this guy by the name of Sabine Baring-Gould, a little-known Victorian author. He was the original author of the lyrics to "Onward, Christian Soldiers," and he wrote the 19th-century's most-respected anthology about werewolves. I was like, `This is the guy for me. This is exactly the guy I've been looking for.' I started reading everything I could about this guy.

The twist --I love the fact that it's couched in this story that's this very simplistic, idealistic Victorian short story. But it has this twist to it. The twist is, ultimately in the end, it sort of doesn't work out. That to me is the real gist of what's going on. It would be a beautiful story if the boy learns violin and then goes off and becomes a concert violinist. He doesn't. It just leads to more beatings and more pain and more suffering. And then he dies.

The cast --The group we put together - I think you'd be hard-pressed to find as phenomenal a group of musicians as we got.

De-tuning --Ryan Dorsey played violin on this thing. He's a classically trained Peabody violinist who played with Peabody Opera, and here I am telling him, "Do you think you can play it so it doesn't sound quite so good? Why don't you just de-tune or something?"

Recording --We recorded at a big old empty house in West Baltimore. ... We did not record everything in chronological order. The reason I did that is because I knew by the end of this incredibly intense period of working together, never having rehearsed together before, we were going to be pulling out some crazy stuff by the end.

Cinematic storytelling --If I were making a film, I would have a really loose script that had my story in it. I would shoot characters improvising each scene over and over and over again until I had enough material that I could go splice it together and get the story that I wanted to tell.

Trimming fat --One of my recording philosophies is the idea of reductive editing. I use the example of sculpture. There are two forms of sculpture. There is either assembling something out of things and putting them together, or there's getting the rock and chipping it down and reducing it to the final form. I think a lot of people tend to do recording that first way. They keep adding things to it. This is done completely the opposite way.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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