Jaime Fennelly – Mind Over Mirrors

Mind Over Mirrors is the ever-evolving project of composer, harmoniumist, and synthesist Jaime Fennelly, who buttresses his modest instrumental foundation of Indian pedal harmonium with an array of tape delays, effect processors, as well as Oberheim and Dave Smith synthesizers that belong to the world of classic analog electronic composition. Both as a solo artist and with various collaborators, he creates immersive interdisciplinary work that NPR has described as “an out-of-body experience.” His explorations of the natural world’s sensory dimensions and the dialogues between cultural traditions — vernacular and avant-garde — have led him down a path of creating work that deliberately situates itself in a questing, edge-of-earth spirit. After five solo albums on several labels, Paradise of Bachelors released Fennelly’s first work for an ensemble, Undying Color (2017), followed by Bellowing Sun (2018), which was commissioned for its world premiere live performance by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

What made you choose the OB-6?

“I was really excited to hear about the announcement of the OB-6 as I was looking for another synthesizer that would blend in well with my two Oberheim SEMs and Indian pedal harmonium. In 2015, I was beginning work on a new album and interdisciplinary work called Bellowing Sun, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and was wanting to open up my sonic palette further.  I worked with one of the new Oberheim Two-Voice Pros for a few months but found that I needed a synthesizer that had more programability, which I think Dave Smith synths are really strong at in their design and production.”

How are you using it?

“I’m using the OB-6 in conjunction with my other instruments to create one cohesive and tightly woven sound. It is clocked externally using a German E-RM Midiclock, which works quite well for syncing MIDI & CV gear. In Bellowing Sun, the OB-6 is mainly used with its sequencer or arpeggiator (vs standalone free playing with the keyboard).

What’s one of your favorite things about it?

“I think because I’ve spent several years working with my two SEMs, the OB-6 just seemed like a natural evolution in sculpting sound, and gave me access to a lot more synthesis tools, all of which are programmable. It’s a very intuitive instrument. Although I feel like I’ve only just begun working with this feature, I really like the alternate tunings capability of the OB-6. Our ears are cultured to experience music/sound within very strict tuning parameters and it doesn’t need to exist that way.

What does it give you that other instruments don’t?

“Aside from its fantastic sound and controllability, I love that Dave Smith offers the OB-6 both as the full-size synth with keyboard as well as the OB-6 module. Having access to the full synth with the keyboard for studio work and literally being able to stretch out makes the experience of playing the instrument feel very open. The module on the other hand is extremely practical for touring/travel and I look forward to the flexibility that provides, especially being able to work with it on the road.”

Any interesting tricks or techniques you’d like to share?

“I use rubber piano mutes (a rubber wedge) to hold down lower keys which then free up a hand to be able to add other notes elsewhere on the keyboard, especially when I’m playing other instruments. The Hold function is great when you have a particular chord you need played in a durational capacity, or when you want to create cumulative chords, but when you just want just one or a few notes held down as a drone while you play other keys that have the decay and release, the mutes work really well.

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MORE ABOUT THE OB-6

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