When we checked in with local experimental musician Josh Beyer in late December, he was building guitars from scratch and circuit-bending Casio keyboards after having played with the likes of Mike Tamburo, Tusk Lord, and Dave Bernabo's Assembly. Now, Beyer has embarked on a radio career of sorts, exposing Pittsburgh's scattered yet vibrant realm of improvised music.
Though it features improvised music, "Josh's Show," Thursday nights on Carnegie Mellon's WRCT 88.3, isn't the kind of jamming that goes on in hippie bands or jazz lounges, mind you. Rather, it's the more esoteric "Wire-level" stuff, more along the lines of Derek Bailey and Peter Brötzmann.
"The objective for the show came about when I wanted to play recordings from local improvising musicians, but there weren't many that existed," Beyer says. "So I decided that I would try to record all of these myself. I had the studio and the privilege and knowledge to use it. I contacted some people and asked them if we could record some solo improvisations, and we'd see what we'd like to keep. In the end, we kept almost all of it."
The musicians on Beyer's program aren't broadcast live -- unlike the long-running Advanced Calculus and Does Your Hometown Really Care? radio shows -- but he sees advantages to pre-recorded material. "There isn't the pressure of filling up a whole hour, where if you mess up, everyone's going to hear you," he says. "You're going to hear a session where everything is set up and sounds good before we're taping. The way it's going, people tend to do about three short pieces, with most of them switching between instruments."
So far, Beyer has showcased guitarist Daryl Fleming (of Public Domain) and Taichi Nakatani (of indie rockers Harangue). The upcoming schedule looks even more intriguing: saxophonist Brandon Masterman on July 30; violinist Ben Harris on Aug. 6; pianist/tinkerer Melissa St. Pierre on Aug. 13; drummer Owl Barns (a.k.a. Gregg Weber) on Aug. 20; and tape manipulation by Josh Tonies on Aug. 27. The series wraps up on Sept. 2 with electronic musician Margaret Cox -- among other things, she plays an old magnetic card-reading machine in ways it probably wasn't intended to be used.
Once the series concludes, Beyer is thinking of assembling a compilation of the local solo improvisors, "although I still plan to record some more people," he says. "The focus of this series was on people who didn't already have recordings, but for those that do, like Dave Bernabo and Michael Johnsen, I'd like them to be part of it as well."
"Josh's Show" airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on WRCT 88.3 FM.