Ben Harper to present new instrumental album at Ellnora Festival | Music
URBANA – Ben Harper has always noticed the confused looks.
When he opened for the Roots, Fugees, Pearl Jam and other popular ’90s bands, he had put his guitar flat in his lap, strumming the strings with one hand and sliding the rod up and down with it. the other.
âA lot of these (people) didn’t even know what I was playing,â he said. â(They said), ‘What is that thing? “”
Harper’s love for the lap steel guitar began in his grandparents’ music store as a child, which was frequented by famous musicians such as Leonard Cohen, Taj Mahal, John Darnielle and David Lindley. The rippling sound of steel guitar in particular spoke to him, and he started playing as a teenager.
âFor me, it reflects and reflects the human voice in a specific way, and it taps into something for me that I found out early on that I didn’t want to live without,â he said. “And for me, what I hope people can see there is that I still play guitar.”
Harper, who rose to fame in the 2000s as a solo actor and with his band, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, is set to release a new piece featuring the lap steel guitar at 9 p.m. today in part of Ellnora: The Guitar Festival at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Harper, a three-time Grammy winner who recorded 14 albums on the Billboard 200 between 1999 and 2018, including “Both Sides of the Gun” at # 7 in 2006, has developed an eclectic catalog of pop, folk, blues, soul and reggae, becoming known as much for his voice as for his talents as a guitarist. But while he incorporated the lap steel guitar into his music, that was never the primary focus of his work until last year.
In the midst of the pandemic, Harper released “Winter is for Lovers”, an instrumental album written in one 29-minute track. Since its release in October, Harper has said he’s been told the stripped-down composition, which only involves his lap steel guitar, felt like a project written in quarantine.
In fact, it had been in the works for 20 years and was completed before the start of the pandemic. Originally, he had planned it as a symphony with a lap steel guitar in the center. He even recorded it in a big production at Capitol Studios. But after hearing the rendering, he decided to change course.
He said his goal was to present the lap steel guitar in a way that had never been done before, and the more instruments he added, the more it sounded like music he had heard before.
âI’ve always heard of people who renovate their house and then when they’re done they hate it and then start over,â he said. âAnd I didn’t hate him, mind you. We pulled some wonderful B-sides out of it. But I had always heard of people who had done double redesigns, or writers who had given up on their novels, and I never thought I would be one of those. people. I couldn’t believe it, but I had to.
âIt wasn’t like any experience, just because I found myself having to take a step back. It forced me to look at myself intently in the mirror and admit that maybe I didn’t get it right.
Due to the pandemic, Harper has yet to perform the play live. That will change at 9 p.m. today in the Foellinger Great Hall.
The large concert hall lends itself to the form of the room, as ‘Winter is for lovers’ is ‘closer to a Bach cello suite than’ Sgt. Pepper’s, âsaid Ellnora’s artistic advisor David Spelman, referring to the classic Beatles album.
âThe idea of ââBen all alone in a chair with an acoustic guitar in a world-class venue where the audience might also have seen Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a really special thing,â said Spelman. âNo matter how many times a fan has seen Ben Harper, I think it will be a once in a lifetime experience and exactly what Ellnora is.
âIt’s a world premiere that you might expect to hear about in Los Angeles or New York or London or Tokyo, and here it’s at our Guitar Top in the Prairie, and I think it’s is really a matter of pride for us. “
Being invited to a guitar festival on the merits of this album, Harper said, was especially special. When he saw that he would be playing in the Foellinger Great Hall, he was convinced to participate.
After spending the last year perfecting the play in his home, practicing day in and day out, Harper said he was excited to finally perform it live in its entirety. He only played two concerts this year, and both were with his band.
Tonight, he will finally give a show in preparation for decades.
“There is a specific type of frequency resonance that comes with pressing the playback of a record, and there is a whole other frequency resonance that occurs when you are in front of people and it is received in time. real, âHarper said. âOur ears are the best loudspeakers in the world.
âI was proud of the look or the sound quality of ‘Winter is for Lovers’. I feel like it was captured in such authentic acoustics – almost as close to being in the room as possible. I have a feeling that when you put ‘Winter is for Lovers’ at the right volume, you might actually think that someone is in the area playing. At least that’s my hope.
âBut when someone is in a corner or on stage playing in real time, it’s a collaborative process. In the studio, you collaborate with the sound engineer. Live, you collaborate with everyone in the seats. And it resonates in a different way when that happens. “