Ian Ethan Case
Acoustic Double-Neck Guitarist Ian Ethan Case began a journey into truly uncharted territory when he picked up this seldom-seen 18-string instrument in 2005, two years after leaving the Berklee College of Music. While most who venture to play the instrument are either baffled by or unaware of the possibilities that it offers (its history seems to peg it as more of a stage prop than a valid musical tool), for him it is simply “the most effective and intuitive means I’ve found to translate into sound the things I’m hearing in my head.”
"Although most acoustic stringed instruments are extremely difficult to amplify in a natural-sounding way, the double-neck is probably one of the hardest of them all, in my experience. That has to do with several things about the instrument itself, as well as some of the non-traditional ways that I play it. When I first started playing the double-neck 8 years ago, there were a lot of musically useful things I found I could easily express with it, but getting those sounds and musical ideas to translate through a PA system in a way that sounded anything like what I was hearing when I played unplugged at home, was always next to impossible, until I discovered the LR Baggs Anthem and Lyric systems a few months ago.”
Praised by multiple Emmy-winning producer/composer Peter Bruce Wilder and featured on radio and tv stations from New England to California, the 31-year-old recently released a new album in September (2012) and continues to perform at festivals, music conferences, in schools and public libraries, and in listening rooms and small theaters around the country such as The Center for the Arts (Grass Valley, CA), Arsenal Center for the Arts (Boston, MA), Davies Hall (Grand Rapids, MN), Salem Theatre (Salem, MA), State Theater (Auburn, CA), Harlow’s (Sacramento, CA), Sunapee Coffeehouse (Sunapee, NH), and Chandler Center for the Arts (Randolph, VT), to name a few. In January 2013 Ian was invited to perform at the premier event of the annual NAMM show in Anaheim CA, sharing the stage with such artists as Robben Ford, Victor Wooten, Mimi Fox, and Stanley Jordan as part of Muriel Anderson's All-Star Guitar Night.
Drawing on a diverse musical background that saw him taking piano lessons at the age of five and later studying drumset, orchestral percussion, saxophone, electric guitar and bass, Ian Ethan’s strikingly-unconventional, self-invented approach to the double-neck guitar is both magical to hear and fascinating to watch. And while his performances are visually intriguing to say the least, it is not showmanship but rather the sincere desire to accurately communicate the harmonically rich, multi-layered music of his composing (or “discovery”, as he refers to the process) that has impelled him every step of the way.
"I had two Anthems installed in one of my double-necks and that was the first time I heard myself coming out of a set of speakers sounding like...MYSELF! I now also have a Lyric mic in my red double-neck which I use for all my looping songs, and it has been a night and day difference compared to what we had before. We can finally rely very heavily on the mic signal rather than just blending a little bit of it in with the undersaddles, and incredibly enough, we usually don't even have to bother notching out any feedback frequencies anymore because 98% of the time there are none! I find that for percussive playing especially, there is no way to sound good without using some kind of mic signal, and the more of it you can use the better. Usually you just can't use very much because of feedback and bleed, but with the Anthems and the Lyric it just works. I'm super thrilled that these products exist because I don't know how else I would be able to sound good live.”
At times intensely percussive and complex rhythmically, Ian’s music is just as often spacious, delicate, and melodic, pulling listeners along with him Into Open Land (the title of his 2008 debut.) Today his performances take this already multi-layered, three-dimensional sound and multiply it exponentially with his well-polished and highly musical employment of an electronic looping device. This device allows him to record the phrases that he performs live on the spot, and instantly layer and re-trigger those phrases to create colorful, deep, and wide-ranging music that extends far beyond the typical reach of a solo artist. Multiple simultaneous melodies, rhythms, and harmonies weave in and out of eachother, often re-emerging slightly transformed in a subsequent piece until all of the ideas seem to merge into one grand realization of connectivity.
Often starting out with solo pieces and gradually threading a course toward breathtaking musical summits built on countless layers of live-overdubbed harmonies, his concerts are far more than mere demonstrations of technical innovation and personal skill. Each performance is a genuine embrace of every audience member and an irresistible invitation to come along on a journey into a world unseen. And ultimately, it is the experience of that epic journey, more than his virtuosity and technical innovation, which leaves audiences in a profound state of wonder; often temporarily speechless, exhilarated and inspired all at the same time.