Casey Driessen plays “Billie Jean”

Although much of what I write about music ends up championing a low tech traditionalism, I’m very fond of just about any kind of music that is a vehicle for creativity and genius. Casey Driessen is a creative genius on the fiddle, and he moves easily between all-acoustic and highly processed contexts; I love to listen to him perform, even if I don’t particularly care for the kind of music he is playing. (Usually I like the music, too.)

Here’s a video Driessen put together shortly after Michael Jackson died, a solo performance of the song “Billie Jean” constructed from a very long electronic loop, about two minutes. First he lays down the bass line, then some backing fiddle, then the main melody, and then finally some improvisational backing. The result is a fantastic one-off performance, a treasure and a throwaway at the same time, very intimate despite the battery of gizmos that make it happen.

Musicians have been experimenting with delay techniques ever since tape recorders became available, and in the past few years the technology has become so inexpensive that anyone who wants to play around with it can probably afford it.

I think it opens up a lot of possibilities for live performance by solo multi-instrumentalists. I also think it opens up new ways to enjoy a live piece of music; in the video above, for example, I not only enjoyed the piece but also the order in which Driessen constructed it, and watching it be constructed as well.

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