This is the first full-length collaborative release by Richmond, VA-based musician and sound artists Molly Berg and Stephen Vitiello. The CD title, The Gorilla Variations came about from a request for a short-soundtrack from Éder Santos, a Brazilian video artist who Vitiello has worked with for 20-years on an uncounted number of projects. For Santos’ recent video installation, Boxing The Game, Éder asked for a 3-minute soundtrack to accompany a video portrait of Idi Amin, a lonely gorilla housed in the Belo Horizonte Zoo.
Molly and Stephen recorded a 40-minute improvisation, straight to a stereo hard disc recorder (no overdubs) with the intention of choosing 3-minutes to send to Santos, the bulk of the material from that session becoming the basis for this CD (Variations 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The Variations include layers of looped electric guitar, clarinet, voice, whistling and samples played from laptop and from Molly’s Fischer Price cassette player. For Stephen this is a return to playing guitar, the first time in 6-years.
A desire for melody to accompany voice was certainly an impulse to play again, as were recent collaborations with Machinefabriek and with Steve Roden, both of whose use of guitar offered useful reminders of what a nice thing it could be to play again. Additional tracks on the CD were performed, edited and performed again over a period of 6-months, drawing primarily on improvisations but also allowing for healthy doses of editing and processing in post-production. Field recordings from sites in and around Richmond are heard throughout. Recurring characters include the 14-hunting beagles in Stephen’s neighbor’s yard. Throughout, a shared desire to bridge songwriting with soundscape, melody with texture shape the intention of the project.