‘Dreaming Man’ by Bradford Reed

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What the hell is that? He strummed, whacked, scraped and slid metal rods and picks across strings strung on slabs of wood. I was mesmerized.


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What the hell is that? I stood dumbfounded on the corner of West 3rd and Broadway. There sat this guy. He strummed, scraped and slid metal rods and picks across strings strung on slabs of wood. He whacked bells and sang in this quirky tone that drew me in closer. I was mesmerized.

That was back in 1996 and recently I was happy to learn that Bradford Reed and his trusty contraption called the Pencilina are still going strong. This piece of avant-folk called ‘Dreaming Man’ is from his brilliant 1996 CD called ‘Live At Home’ which I bought from him on that fateful day in the Village.

As the name implies, this CD was recorded live in Bradford’s home in Brooklyn. It is as close to the experience I had watching this one-man, clanking symphony on that street corner as I could imagine.

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Bradford & Pencilina in space. I love this album cover!

The Pencilina is a magnificent bit of musical engineering. Invented by Reed in the 1980s, it is a double neck, three-bridge guitar. One neck has six strings tuned like a standard guitar. The other neck has four strings tuned like a bass. That’s where the ‘guitar’ similarities pretty much end.

Wedged over and under the strings of each neck are movable rods (third bridge). A wooden one for the guitar strings and a metal one for the bass strings. These rods create two adjustable segments of pitch on each neck.

Mounted on the outter frame are a fire bell, a door bell and two brass telephone ringer bells. There are four built-in pickups. Two are contact mics in the bridges and the others are guitar pickups placed under the strings at the opposite end.

Of course it takes more than a funky shop project to make great, innovative music. Bradford has been featured on the avant-guard compilation ‘Orbitones, Spoon Harps and Bellowphones’ (Ellipsis Arts, 1998) with other musical innovators such as Tom Waits.

See Also:
Bradford Reed (website)
Bradford Reed (myspace)

Buy on Amazon:
Orbitones, Spoon Harps & Bellowphones


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