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Using Visual Art to Inspire Improvised Ambient Atmospheres

Using Visual Art to Inspire Improvised Music
Using Visual Art to Inspire Improvised Music
Hey, everyone. Mark Marshall with and

Today, I’m going to talk about an interesting concept that me and my friend, Nick Oddy used in a recent session to capture some ambient guitar textures.

Nick, the idea was to pull up Czech filmmaker, Jan Svankmajer work and turn the sound down to improvise. The idea being that the images on the screen would influence the direction of the improvisations. Now, he put on the film, Down the Cellar, which I’ve never seen from Jan before, and I’ve only slightly been familiar with some of his works, including Food, and a few other films.

They’re very interesting because some of them are all stop animation, and this particular film combines stop animation and some regular camera footage. It’s a very dark short film. It certainly did influence the direction of where I was going with the guitar parts.

It should be noted that before this film started, I didn’t have any ideas of anything to play, so there was something about the rocks and the dungeon vibe, and the creepiness about it that certainly set me in this direction, which you’ll hear.

Let’s listen and check out a little bit of the video together, and I’ll talk about what we did.

[electric guitar]

Let’s tear this apart a little bit.

I’m going to start with just the raw guitar tracks so you can hear what I was doing with my floor based effects and just a straight amplifier.

[guitar, dry]


Let’s check out the Effectron.

[guitar, affected by the Effectron]

Let’s check out the H3000.

[guitar, affected by Eventide H3000]

Let’s check out the LXP1 from Lexicon.

[guitar, affected by Lexicon LXP1]

Then finally, last, but not least, the PCM41.

[guitar, affected by PCM41]

I’m going to go through some of these tracks to show you some of my favorite parts.

Now, we’re going to stick on the PCM41 here because there was a cool moment that was happening here. I’m not sure what Nick was doing in the control room, which we noted that he was playing with the dials as this was all happening.

Check this part out.

[electric guitar plays, affected by PCM41]

This is a very similar part of the song, running through the LXP1. Let’s just check out how much low end is going on here.

[guitar, affected by Lexicon LXP1]

Let’s hear what’s going on with the H3000 in the same spot.

[guitar, affected by Eventide H3000]

And then mess around with the faders. It’s going to give a tiny glimpse into the world of how you can manipulate these to create a really cool atmospheric effect for films, or silent films, or horror soundtracks. It’s kind of limitless for what you can do.

I’m just going to do something very simple here.

[electric guitar with effects]

There you go, everybody. There’s a little bit of an insight into how you can use abstract films, or any sort of medium to inspire some very interesting ambient guitar work.


Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at