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New York folk-jazz artist Charlie Rauh discusses musical roots
(Published: October 30, 2019)

New York-based guitarist/composer Charlie Rauh has just released a gorgeously crafted new acoustic album, Hiraeth.

Q: What are the earliest memories of music you can recall?

A: The earliest memories of music I can remember are people singing in church, and my mother humming around my family's home.

Q: Do you recall a strong musical community in and around where you grow up, which is where, actually?

A: My family has always been very musically inclined. My father is a multi instrumentalist, and taught me to play the guitar. In addition I always had friends around that played music, and took lessons with local players. I grew up between Virginia and Alabama, spending early childhood in Alabama and my teens in Virginia.

Q: How would say the new album is different from your other recordings?

A: It is very different from my two previous releases. It has been a process of distillation for me : Innocent Speller was recorded in a studio on electric guitar with effects and string arrangements, Viriditas was recorded on electric as well, but solo and with minimal effects in a barn in Southern France during a tour. Both these releases relied heavily on improvisation as well. With Hiraeth I recorded solo acoustic guitar songs with no added effects, utilizing the two spaces I chose in that way. The songs are are structured as lullabies : brief, through composed. I recorded the album during the first week of my stay as artist in residence for the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva, Florida and had access to many spaces for working. I recorded the first takes in a space called the Garage Studio (a converted garage with a high ceiling and natural reverb). I finished the album in The Waldo Cottage - a small wooden house built in the 20s with a warm, resonant sound. Hiraeth is also the first recording I've ever made myself, engineering and mixing it as I played the songs.

Q: Would you consider it a personal record? Why or why not?

A: It is the most personal collection of music I've written yet. I wrote the songs over the course of 2 and a half years of touring mostly in Northern Europe and narrowed down the list to the nine songs on the record based on the concept that titles the record. Hiraeth is a Welsh word with no direct translation, but approximates to : "Longing for a place or point in time that you can't return to, and possibly never existed". The songs are all written about encounters with people and places that evoke that feeling in me. It is my hope that the songs will provoke listeners to reflect in their own way, on their own experiences.

Q: Did you study music in school?

A: I played clarinet and saxophone in the school band as a kid and for a bit as a teenager, and also studied at Shenandoah Conservatory for two years before leaving to pursue music full time. My experiences with music in school were largely negative, and I was often criticized by faculty for my ideas/approach to playing. It is absolutely worth noting that I was also challenged to solidify my conceptual approach to playing by this as well. It's also worth noting that I had several inspirational professors and peers that were very encouraging. For me, I've always thrived more in independent study than a classroom. I've learned, and continue to learn, most from playing with inspiring musicians, listening to as much music as I can, and reading as much as I can.

Q: Which musicians have inspired you and how?

A: I take a lot of influence from musicians who fearlessly establish a personal sound and creative identity. Among these I would say Mary Halvorson, Karen Peris, Tierra Whack, and Julian Lage are current role models for what I am attempting to do. I also take almost even more inspiration from poetry than music I listen to. I am very attracted to the idea of power in minutia. As a great admirer of Emily and Anne Brontë's poems, I try to structure my music as their poems : brief, impactful, endearing, personal, memorable.

Q: Are there any artists who influenced you to change your approach to music and how

A: My favorite album is Karen Peris' Violet. That album marked a very distinctive shift for me as a composer, and I have been developing my approach based on its example. When I was younger my music was mostly notated, long form, and experimental with a lot of improvisation involved. On Violet, Peris constructs what I believe to be a flawless combination of deeply felt emotion, conviction, personal expression, and an extended hand to the listener. The goal of making music that is memorable, personal, and meant to engage comes almost completely from how this album affected me.

More Information: http://charlierauh.com

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