MOMENTARY DECISIONS
Bass Player|September 2020
MOMENTARY DECISIONS
The great Michael Manring returns with a new album, Small Moments, and explains the far-reaching philosophy beneath the music

I’ve always loved the idea that being an artist is all about observing what’s happening in the society around you and responding in some meaningful way. I get the feeling this notion went out of style in the tumult of the 20th century and art became a kind of anything goes proposition, but I just can’t seem to let go of it. I have the privilege of travelling a good bit, seeing some interesting parts of the world and meeting lots of people. I’m not sure if I have any special perspective, but I always look for themes and patterns around me and those ideas motivate me in the creative process.

From what I can see, life in the early part of this still new century is increasingly technological and globally inter-connected, complex, and full of both possibilities and problems. It continues to be a time of dramatic new conceptions in physics, information, and philosophy of mind with remarkable implications for epistemology and society. I find these ideas recur in my thoughts and compositions as I try to make sense of the world around me, and they are reflected in Small Moments.

Let me introduce some of my bass guitars to you. First, the Zon Michael Manring Fretless Hyperbass: I’ve had this bass since 1990 and it has been a dream come true. For many years I had wanted to experiment with bass design in some specific ways, but it was difficult to find a luthier willing to undertake some of the bizarre concepts I had in mind. I had the great fortune to meet Joe Zon in the late 80s, and he and I have been collaborating ever since. For the Hyperbass, we decided to try out a whole set of unusual ideas on one instrument and see what happened. It has several unusual features. First, it has a very long fingerboard—just shy of three octaves. We did this because we couldn’t see a reason not to. With a fretless instrument, it seemed to make sense to extend the fingerboard as far as possible— in this case to the sole pickup.

We also included an unusual electronics arrangement in the Hyperbass. Underneath the standard pickup cover there are actually four separate elements, one for each string. This allows me to output the sound of each string separately and if you listen carefully to the pieces ‘Tetrahedron’ and ‘23 Oktober’ you will hear each string has its own place in the stereo field. If you’re really paying attention, you can hear separate audio processing for each string on these pieces as well. In addition to the four magnetic pickups, there are four ceramic pickups built into the body of this bass. One is in the top of the body, one in each horn and one in the headstock.

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September 2020