Night People: Devin Sarno

Night People is a set of 5 nocturnes I composed that were inspired by and dedicated to musician friends of great originality. Each piece is based around the solo instrument of each dedicatee, evoking their style and spirit, and supported by an arrangement for octet. 

Nocturne #1 (Devin) pays tribute to Devin Sarno, an experimental electric bassist from Los Angeles.

Devin Sarno is the man behind Crib, creator of soundscapes using only a Fender Precision Bass, amplification and various effects. A Crib musical experience usually starts off very quietly before building into a crescendo of multi-layered, often feedback-driven music characterized by unknowable overtones and harmonics. It might be meditative. It might be inscrutable. It might be terrifying. With Crib one never knows in advance! 

I wrote about Devin earlier in the year here. As I mentioned in that piece, Devin’s experiments have boundless potential for multimedia applications in film, video and theater. I even thought today that some visionary choreographer might commission a Crib ballet. Why not? Knowing the man Sarno it’s probably already happened and I missed it!

Devin Sarno

When I lived in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to join Devin for a few shows billed as the “Crib-SF Duet”. He on his trusty Fender P-bass and me on analog synthesizer. I regret to say that the addition of my analog synth playing – which usually sounds like a WWII-vintage heavy bomber hitting the runway with no landing gear and a port engine aflame – confounded his usual subtlety and he was forced to continually spin his amp volume clockwise to keep up.

One of these performances found us in NYC at the exciting Ret-Inevitable festival. Hosted at in the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, a 19th-century engineering marvel featuring 50-foot ceilings and exposed masonry, lent a steroid boost of power and reverberation to our sonic attack and I do believe that ghostly, howling echoes of our performance are probably still traveling from room to room as of this writing. 

Nocturne #1 (Devin) is a tad more structured and harmonically organized than a Sarno/Crib improvisation. The bass part’s left hand is performed using a combination of fingers and small metal spark shaker. ​​

Devin Sarno
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