Fred Frith (Experimental/Improvisation/Contemporary Classical)

Who Is Fred Frith?: Born in 1949 in England, Fred Frith grew up studying music–in every regard. His father was a pianist–as was his grandmother. When he was five years old, his grandmother insisted he start taking violin lessons. During the first six months of lessons, his instructor taught him only proper breathing (no instrument whatsoever)–which he subsequently has always considered more important than technique.

In 1968, he met Tim Hodgkinson at Cambridge University and began experimenting improvisationally with him (Frith on violin and Hodgkinson on alto-sax). They were inseparable after their first session, and quickly moved on to form the avant-rock group Henry CowThe band went through numerous incantations–being that members would come and go. In 1978, the band was officially disbanded.

However, this was only one aspect of Frith’s musical career. In 1974, he released his first solo album Guitar Solos–which is considered a seminal experimental work. Abandoning traditional rock guitar tropes, Frith uses tapping, feedback, volume pedals, and other techniques to make his guitar sound like anything but a guitar. Sean Westergaard of All Music said: “Guitar Solos lasting legacy is that it radically redefined the way some people think about the guitar”.

To date, Frith has contributed to over 400 different musical projects. It doesn’t seem like he’ll be stopping anytime soon.

Interesting Fact: Frith said in an interview that he used to break into his school’s chapel at night when he was a kid just so he could play the organ that was kept in there.

Recommended Listening: “No Birds” off of the 1974 album Guitar Solos. 


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