The separation between “self” and “instrument” faded away a long time ago for Kaki King.
The renowned guitarist from New York City has felt that way since she picked up the guitar at 4. That’s pretty deep for a 4-year-old.
That feeling is the underlying theme to King’s innovative multimedia show, “The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body,” coming Oct. 18 to the Edmonds Center for the Arts.
In the show, which has been touring since 2015, King’s guitar also serves as a projection screen to tell a story about creation myths. Psychedelic visions of genesis, death and higher consciousness are cast onto the guitar as she plays.
King, 39, dressed in all white and wearing sunglasses, says she is merely a character in the background who does the instrument’s bidding.
“When called upon, I play what the guitar wants me to play,” King said. “Other than that, I don’t have any purpose.”
“The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body” is a metaphorical statement about the New Yorker’s career as an acoustic, post-rock and jazz fusion guitarist.
“It was a way to produce, visually, what I had felt about the guitar my whole life,” King said. “I’m not really in control of the guitar. When you take away the guitar and the things I’ve done with it, there’s not much left.”
King’s father encouraged her to play music at an early age. She started off playing the drums and the guitar, but felt a stronger pull from the latter. She played in bands through high school, busked in the New York City subway and studied music at New York University.
Then she hit the big time.
Her debut album, “Everybody Loves You,” in 2003 led to an appearance on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and a deal with Sony Records.
In 2006, King became the first woman on Rolling Stone magazine’s “The New Guitar God List” in 2006. Two years later, her work on the soundtrack for Sean Penn’s film “Into the Wild” was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best original score.
She’s been hailed for her percussive and jazzy melodies, diverse range in genres and top-notch skills on the acoustic and lap steel guitar.
All seven of her albums were lauded in music reviews. But by 2014, she needed a change.
“I had been very dedicated to this sort of stark lighting for my shows,” King said. “A friend of mine suggested, ‘Why don’t you create a lighting design for your show?’ It was a very simple idea: Make it exciting.”
From that initial push, King discovered projection mapping, where technology is used to turn any object — such as a guitar — into a screen.
King collaborated with visual experience company Glowing Pictures to produce “The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body,” which made its debut in New York City in 2014. She released the soundtrack to the hour-long show in 2015, her eighth full-length album.
During the show, King controls what images the audience sees on her guitar by way of sending audio signals to a computer. Another computer projects animations onto a screen behind her on stage.
“I was trying to flip this ‘master instrumentalist’ — all that nonsense — on it’s head and allow the guitar to take center stage,” King said.
The story playing out on the guitar is ambiguous. King says she made a career out of the abstract and meaningless, so she wants to leave “The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body” open to interpretation.
More than anything, she says, the performance is about escapism.
“It leaves people feeling profoundly moved,” King said. “It takes an instrument that people are so familiar with seeing and turns it into something completely new. It’s like a window into a new place.”
Evan Thompson: 360-544-2999, email@example.com. Twitter: @evanthompson_1.
If you go
What: Kaki King’s “The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body”
Where: Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Ave. N., Edmonds
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18
More: 425-275-9595 or www.edmondscenterforthearts.org
Talk to us
- You can tell us about news and ask us about our journalism by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 425-339-3428.
- If you have an opinion you wish to share for publication, send a letter to the editor to email@example.com or by regular mail to The Daily Herald, Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206.
- More contact information is here.