Wayward in Limbo #78: Tom Baker

Tom Baker is a composer, guitarist, improviser, and electronic musician, active in the Seattle new-music scene. His compositions, from operas and avant-jazz to chamber and electronic music, have been performed across the US, Canada, and Europe. As a performer and improviser, Tom specializes in fretless guitar and live-electronics. His band TRIPTET recently released its fourth album, Slowly, Away, on Engine Records. His electronic-interactive-arts collaboration with visual artist Robert Campbell, was featured in the MoxSonic Festival in 2019 and the Currents Virtual Festival in 2020. Tom is a Professor of Music at Cornish College of the Arts where he teaches composition, music theory, and electronic music. (photo: Jessa Carte)

The four pieces that make up this recording are part of a series of works entitled Traces. One might consider them ghost stories. In my youth I was obsessed with Harry Houdini, especially his interactions with Sir Conan Doyle, and their arguments about spiritualism and the paranormal. From there I stumbled onto the practice of EVP (electronic voice phenomenon). As a young person with an obsessive relationship to sound and access to a reel-to-reel tape recorder, this seemed to give my life a purpose: to find and record “invisible” sounds and otherwise unheard voices. These four works for performers and interactive electronics are a remembrance of that period in my life, each a meditation on loss, grief, and memory. They are a search for what remains in the absence of known things, real things, loved things. They each began as an incantation, a conjuring, giving voice to the inaudible and form to the imperceptible. What emerges are traces and remnants of people, spaces, and memories – requiems for things lost. These works were to be performed at the Chapel Performance Space in October 2020 in a live performance (which was lost to Covid-19). They are now actualized here on the Wayward in Limbo series. “Traces:Sarah” was commissioned by Melissa Achten.

(00:00) Traces:Sarah – Melissa Achten, harp
(12:19) Traces:Henry – Tom Baker, bowed mbira
(20:48) Traces:George – Tom Baker, electric guitar
(29:09) Traces:Nellie – Lily Shababi, viola; Madison LaVigne, cello

With the Chapel closed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wayward Music Series moves from the concert hall to the living room. In place of our usual ten monthly concerts, Nonsequitur is commissioning ten Seattle artists each month to create a series of streaming audio sessions of previously unreleased material.