The Honky Tonks and Me
CCA Derry~Londonderry's first Digital Resident of 2023, artist Peter Glasgow, was in residence from Monday 28 August 2023 until Friday 8 September 2023. You can view the resulting arrangement from the residency period here.
The residency is best viewed on desktop, or in desktop mode on Chrome if using your mobile.
A text written by curator Cecelia Graham for The Honky Tonks and Me, Peter Glasgow’s Digital Residency.
I watched a video Peter sent me of a discussion between Lloyd Green and Paul Franklin*, two legendary pedal steel guitar players. I liked watching Lloyd casually play the instrument in the video, discussing creating new sounds, reverberations and styles, the two sharing knowledge and compositional techniques learned across the years.
In the video, Lloyd talks about when he started out playing the instrument, using his first pedal steel:
‘I had all these ideas, I couldn’t play ‘em. I didn’t have anything to play ‘em on’
I’ve discovered that, when your pedal steel can’t play the sound you want, you build a new lever or pedal - a new arrangement which allows the creation of a new sound.
Peter Glasgow’s residency, The Honky Tonks and Me, is its own arrangement, an assemblage that brings new sounds and ideas to the CCA Derry~Londonderry website.
Peter’s research and the creation of his own mechanically unique steel guitar - his frankensteel - embraces the slippery-ness of an instrument that isn’t solely shaped around a strict, theoretical style of playing but something more emotive, engaging with the player’s context and body movements. Perfection and perfect tuning give way to something more malleable - a series of actions that don’t just result in new sounds, but a new language.
Across the six segments of The Honky Tonks and Me, Peter has explored the instrument’s potential to create this language. Disembodied melodies, recorded by the artist, show the instrument’s ability to create alternative harmonic shifts through the mechanic possibilities of adding additional parts. Equally, the steel guitar acts as a conduit for exploring the loopy logic embedded within country music’s sentiment in the 60s.
Echoing the alterations on Peter’s hand-built steel guitar, The Honky Tonks and Me considers the digital platform of CCA Derry~Londonderry’s website as a space to experiment. Playing with the fabric of the website, and working with both form and research, creates an opportunity to consider the effects of assembly on language, be this in digital or physical form.
In the conversation between Lloyd Green and Paul Franklin, they discuss how each player’s instrument and approach is unique, how it represents the human voice. The instrument, in its very construction and use, represents the player's distinct ideas and expression. Each player, they say, finds the exact way they want to play, specific combinations of timing, distortion and emphasis that work for them and the emotions they’re feeling.
Do it the way it feels, Lloyd says, not the way you think it should be.
On the final day of his residency, Peter showed me a video of himself playing his steel guitar. In the video, he flicks a lever with his little finger, in a movement that looks natural and easy. The lever distorts the string, and a new sound plays from the instrument. After this, with no intervention from Peter’s hand, the lever moves back into place, clicking into its original position.
* Modern Music Masters, A Conversation with Pedal Steel Guitar Legend Lloyd Green
Peter Glasgow is a visual artist who lives and works in Belfast. His work investigates the slipperiness and subjectivity of words, objects and narratives and the imaginative space they might hold for us. His research is often a process of chasing why a particular image, sound or activity produces an affect or generates a meaning, and has culminated in live talks, printed matter and audiovisual installations. He graduated in 2015 from MA Fine Art Printmaking at the Royal College of Art.
Exhibitions include Mediating Signals, Flax Art Studios, Belfast (2021), Tap, tap, tap, millimetre02 at Kingsgate Project Space, London (2019) and Imagining Lines In Other Narratives for Art Licks Weekend 2018. His recent collaboration with artist-filmmaker Sun Park, At Once It Dreams In Multiple Tenses, was presented by South Kiosk, London (2021) and exhibited as part of it feels hairy to start from nothing again at Catalyst Arts, Belfast (2022).