Ted Byrnes is what happens when adults don’t tell their kids to stop banging on pots and pans in the kitchen. It turns out they grow up to be geniuses of percussion. The Berklee College of Music trained sound artist has a well-earned reputation for being able to find a beat in just about any object you hand him. From coffee cans, to trash lids, to sheets of scrap metal- there is no piece of junk you could rescue from the landfill that he couldn’t transform into a medium in and of itself. His orthodox talent has produced long-standing collaborations with punk saxophonist Michael Foster, Tortios guitarist and innovative jazz performer Jeff Parker, and harsh noise artist Sam McKinley of The Rita, and has performed on recordings with Zola Jesus, John Dwyer of Osees, clipping., Lingua Ignota… this is becoming quite the list. Suffice to say, he’s an interesting dude, and his skills are very much in demand.
If you want a sense of his process there is a video of a performance that he did for Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago which you can check out below:
As you would guess, Ted’s recorded discography is about as easy to rasp as a chain dipped in motor oil. And wouldn’t you know it, he just keeps adding links. Moving My Body Through Space is his latest effort, a collection of improvisations that conceptualized, executed, and recorded during quarantine. The title of the album is quite literal and Ted makes no attempts to hide the presence of his body in the recordings space, as it interacts with the objects he had assembled for the recording. You can hear the weight of his body shifting in place, the skin of his hands brushing and then gripping raw metal, and unchoreographed thuds as materials return to their resting place. It might sound insane to listen to twenty minutes of someone playing with detritus in their living room, but that is only an opinion you can reasonably maintain before witnessing it for yourself. Ted may be surrounded by a heap of inert objects, but his capable hands, they become the raw components of an orchestra.
The oddest part of Ted’s work is how compelling it is to listen to, without even realizing who is behind it. There is a relaxing quality to the rhythms he creates, a sense of timing that is highly naturalistic- as if he learned to makes these sounds by listening to the breeze fondle windchimes, a marble bouncing down a flight of stairs, or the metal of a can of beans popping as its contents expand and its sides are licked by a campfire below. Ted’s state of flow on Moving My Body Through Space is like an exhibition of some natural law, channeled through a human form. It’s like he is listening to each object as if it were another collaborator. It’s amazing to see someone so attuned to their surroundings, that they are able to perfectly avail themselves to each thing they encounter, and assist it in achieving its sonic potential. If you allow yourself to indulge in anything today, then allow yourself to relax into the strange comfort of the exchange that Ted has orchestrated.