Bill Muter Is Here to Show the World That Tubas Are Cool
Brent T. Williams
Experimental tuba: Two words you don't see side-by-side very often.
The big bulky brass instrument conjures up images of lockstep marching bands, or smoky New Orleans jazz joints, but never anything remotely new or avant-garde.
Set all you preconceived notions about the tuba aside, and get ready for Boca Raton born and bred musician Bill Muter to blow your mind with the beast of brass. Seriously, Muter emits sounds out of the tuba that are simply perplexing. Bending, molding, and shifting the notes of the lowest pitched brass and producing head-scratching noises that resemble guitar strums, keyboard bleeps, didgeridoo fizzes, and more.
He also tips and taps on the oversized horn at the same time, recreating the pitter-patter of drums. The real showstopper is when Mutter starts beatboxing out of the thing, a little boom boom biff hip-hop throwback emitted out a symphonic instrument leaves the crowd like putty in Muter's hands.
He takes the tuba into realms unknown; dimensions we didn't even know were possible for this orchestral instrument. Classical, jazz, symphonic, hip-hop, rock, fusion, funk, Muter has no sonic boundaries.
To give you an idea of Muter's brilliance, on his debut solo album Off Script, he lays out 120 compiled tracks of tuba, playing the melody, bass lines, and the drum parts out of the horn. "In the album, 99-percent of the sounds you hear were produced by the tuba," he says.
Muter's intent was to create newer divergent sounds out of the instrument, emitting noises and resonances that people have never heard before from it. He really knocks it out of the park on Off Script. Muter teamed up with ever-eccentric Mike Mineo on this effort, Mineo taking a seat in the producing chair for this distinctive record. The two have been working together for five years now, Muter loaning his inimitable skills on Mineo's two records, Eccentricity and Beach Season.
Mineo and Muter made a template of the number of different sounds they could make with the tuba, according to Muter. "We blew into the instrument, hit it like a drum, scratched it, flicked it, and pretty much anything that made a noise, we recorded all of those sounds and just started writing music with what we came up with."
The end result is an unclassifiable yet alluring record that will appeal to every sort of music fan. Experimental tuba jazz fusion or Postmodern tuba rock, we suggested as genres. "Yeah... When you submit to iTunes and all of those other online music retailers, it asks you what genre of music it is. Damned if I know!" said Muter.
The physical album release is May 17, at Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Muter is giving a presentation and performance at the Midwest Regional Tuba and Euphonium Conference, hosted at ISU.
"Wait, there are such things as tuba conferences?" we asked the 28-year-old gifted musician. "This is actually the first one I have ever attended," responded the personable Muter with a guffaw. "I'll be doing a clinic and performing, so I am pretty curious to see myself, should be an interesting group of people."
Although a Boca Raton release party from this homegrown artist would have been fantastic, a Tuba Euphonium Conference seems a fitting venue for the unveiling of this pioneering album. Muter is the most inventive tuba player we've ever seen. He has the potential to do for the tuba what Louis Armstrong did to the trumpet. Innovative the sounds of his instrument and change people's perception of it too.
"Wait, what about 'Tuba funkadelio-beep-bop?'," we said as a last ditch effort to come up with some sort of classification for his tunes. "Nice, that just might work," Muter admitted kindly.
The album, which features Muter originals and hits from Bob Marley, JJ Johnson and the Chordettes, is also available on iTunes now, for those of you not making it to the tuba conference. Let the tuba melt your face.
Here is the first track from Off Script, "Tuba Conduit." Believe it or not every single note, percussion, blare, and screech was produced by the tuba. Its like Explosions in the Sky meets Medeski Martin & Wood, meets Miles Davis.
More info on the album release can be found here.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.