Sunday, April 28, 2013

"It Ain't Easy" to Play an Omnichord


His name is Techno Cowboy, and he has recorded a song-for-song version of Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars using only an Omnichord (pictured in his hands).

The sound of the Omnichord is like that of almost any early-80s Casio, or maybe more like an old Lowrey organ condensed into the something the size of an autoharp. Manufactured first in 1981 by the Suzuki Company in Japan, the Omnichord is one of those anyone-can-play instruments.

From the Suzuki Company's web site: "It quickly became adapted by singers, songwriters, musicians -- and people who wanted to play an instrument but never found time to learn." (Emphasis added.) You play it by strumming an electronic pad: "Just press a chord button and strum away." I did so myself today, in fact, and it was easy to make anything sound okay.

Interesting that another well-known method for creating a kind of universal musical development bears the same name. The Suzuki Method provides a means for children to learn to play music regardless of any formal training. There seems to be no connection, however, between the violinist Shin'ichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki Method, and Manji Suzuki, president of Suzuki Company. But both have brought music to the unlikely musicians of the world.

Techno Cowboy's use of the instrument for this Bowie tribute is quite a feat. I wouldn't have the patience for it. Hear snippets Techno Cowboy uploaded to Youtube:



Below is a nice clip of him in Hollywood performing another Bowie classic. But the tune was entirely unrecognizable to me for about 45 seconds, and even then only vaguely familiar thanks to his slowly drawn-out wail of "faaame." Maybe it was the R2D2 sound effects:



(hat-tip to Michael Miller.)