January 16, 2022

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How a Professional Skateboarder Grew to become an Apostle of Historic Tuning

How a Pro Skateboarder Became an Apostle of Ancient Tuning

When he retired for the primary time, Duane Pitre was 23.

It was the winter of 1997, when cash was beginning to pour into skilled skateboarding. Pitre was poised to develop into one of many sport’s profitable stars because it transitioned from counterculture to business empire. He was an early member of Alien Workshop, the upstart gear firm that helped form skating’s aesthetic.

The corporate’s founders fell for Pitre’s lithe kind and simple charisma. He effortlessly executed the methods of road skating, a nascent city strategy, stuffed with slides down handrails and grinds throughout picnic tables. He starred in seminal skate videos. Boards have been printed together with his title.

Simply as earnings have been rising, nonetheless, Pitre purchased an inexpensive bass, realized his real love was making music, and bid skating farewell.

“I used to be getting paid to do that factor I didn’t need to do,” Pitre, now 47, mentioned just lately on a name from his residence outdoors of Ann Arbor, Mich. “There was no possibility for me to skateboard to simply make my residing. That’s not what it was about; it was about self-expression.”

Pitre ended up enjoying in heavy rock bands, gravitating towards the stranger aspect of the style till he grew to become ensconced in experimental music twenty years in the past. Over the last dozen years, he has emerged as an apostle of simply intonation, an historic tuning system tied to Indian and Chinese language traditions however typically ignored by Western composers. A proud autodidact, Pitre has moved amongst long-form digital drones, mercurial acoustic improvisations and glistening string meditations, all using simply intonation.

Launched this fall, his pensive new album, “Omniscient Voices,” places the piano in dialog with laptop packages and electronics over 5 items that recommend broken images of beautiful horizons. Pitre has used the identical traits that made him a street-skating phenom — ageless rebelliousness, intractable focus, unwavering restlessness — to encourage youthful musicians additionally exploring simply intonation.

“Duane is sort of a shepherd for my technology,” the organist and composer Kali Malone, 27, mentioned in an interview. She as soon as spent a formative spring enjoying together with the composer Caterina Barbieri to “Feel Free,” Pitre’s 2012 album. (Malone’s personal items in simply intonation have launched one more group of artists to the system.)

“Simply intonation isn’t a style,” Malone mentioned, “however a software you should use to make many kinds of music.”

It’s no shock that music was Pitre’s future. His dad and mom reveled in New Orleans rock golf equipment; they named him after Duane Allman and indoctrinated him into the Beatles and Black Sabbath. Pitre purchased new wave singles for his tiny plastic document participant.

His father thought the preteen Duane had a protracted future — maybe an expert one — in soccer. However the opening skate scene in “Again to the Future” excited him a lot that he minimize grass for an entire summer season to purchase his first low cost board. And simply as Marty McFly was pursued by a band of bullies in that 1985 movie, Pitre and his mates have been typically lambasted with homophobic slurs whereas skating round New Orleans, lengthy earlier than skating’s ubiquity.

“We have been outcasts — unhealthy children who got here from damaged properties and located a option to run away within the streets,” Pitre mentioned. “I used to be hooked. I by no means performed one other sport.”

When he was 15, Pitre earned his first sponsorship. Two years later, Alien Workshop issued his first official board, paying him two {dollars} for each one offered — sufficient for him to purchase a Tremendous Nintendo. When he was 20, he moved to San Diego to dwell in a skater home that resembled a frat.

Its residents made cult-classic movies and did photograph shoots that grew to become the gospel of skateboarding’s ballooning neighborhood. However Chris Carter, a founding father of Alien Workshop, remembers how Pitre started skipping shoots to play bass or examine his indie rock obsessions, My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr.

“I believed he would have been a type of legends that skates at a excessive stage for 20 years,” Carter mentioned in an interview. “He might have made some huge cash. However he was very trustworthy about not desirous to receives a commission for one thing he didn’t need to do.”

After Carter supplied six months of retirement pay, Pitre hit the highway with a sequence of bands. He purchased a guitar pedal that allowed him to layer loops into drones. He moved to New York, which served as a de facto conservatory. A brand new buddy was shocked, for instance, that regardless of his aspirations to create experimental music, he didn’t know who Meredith Monk was.

“All these concepts and ideas — that’s what faculty ought to be,” Pitre mentioned.

In 2004, a buddy Pitre had met via skating again in San Diego invited him to the studio of East Village Radio, the place a mellow part of La Monte Young’s landmark “The Properly-Tuned Piano” was enjoying. Pitre was dumbstruck: He had been utilizing circuits to change his sound, whereas Younger used solely tuning. The DJ knew solely the title of the fashion: simply intonation.

“It felt like confusion, in one of the best sense,” Pitre mentioned. “I started asking individuals what simply intonation was, and so they mentioned it was nature’s tuning system. I didn’t need the New Age rationalization. I wished the science.”

He immersed himself within the query, simply as he had achieved with skating twenty years earlier. He visited Younger’s Dream House sound and lightweight surroundings. He pored over rudimentary web sites, learn scholarly essays and ordered a spiral-bound workbook known as “The Just Intonation Primer.” He tackled its mathematical fashions like a school scholar grappling with calculus and internalized simply intonation’s axioms.

In its easiest phrases, simply intonation signifies that the ratios between notes are complete numbers, fairly than the irrational ratios that divide the octave within the acquainted framework of equal temperament. For Pitre, the ensuing sound — which felt unique and disobedient, like a surrealist’s rendering of the world — was the draw. Its esoteric standing lured him, too, since after skating he had resolved to not tie his creativity to commerce. Simply intonation would by no means promote.

Amid this self-education, Pitre discovered that simply intonation samplers bored him as a result of they have been extra involved with mechanics than music. Earlier than he launched his first album within the system, he organized the 2009 compilation “The Harmonic Series” as a rebuttal. Its eight tracks confirmed the disparate ways in which artists just like the Deep Listening pioneer Pauline Oliveros or the resonator guitarist R. Keenan Lawler would possibly wield simply intonation.

“I used to be attempting to say two issues,” recalled Pitre, a married father of two who nonetheless speaks with the boyish nonchalance (and sports activities the lengthy hair) of his skating adolescence. “Right here’s this music I believe is superior. And I used to be talking to a model of myself that was two years youthful, saying, ‘You are able to do this your self.’”

That ethos has guided Pitre’s numerous output. Whereas the combination of harp, dulcimer, strings and electronics on “Really feel Free” urged a Renaissance recital at a tech summit, “Bayou Electrical” added a Southern contact to simply intonation via tidal guitar harmonies and recordings of Louisiana’s 4 Mile Bayou, the place Pitre’s grandmother was raised. “Omniscient Voices” has the meditative heat of Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s “Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror” or Philip Glass’ softest études — maybe in the event that they have been heard on warped vinyl.

Likewise, Pitre’s second installment of “The Harmonic Sequence,” launched in July, begins with Malone’s hovering organ and ends with Barbieri’s disorienting electronics. They each play with time and texture, as if tickling the thoughts via the ear. The six items — and simply intonation on the whole — “enable us to rehear sound,” mentioned Tashi Wada, a compilation contributor who admired Pitre as a skater earlier than listening to his music.

Experiencing youthful musicians utilizing simply intonation in novel methods, Pitre mentioned, compels him to maintain exploring — in a approach skating by no means might.

“In highschool math, I hated having to write down down your work, as a result of I might discover my very own methods to unravel issues. Simply intonation concerned the identical a part of my mind,” he mentioned. “It’s virtually universally accepted that 12-tone equal temperament is the one option to tune, however that’s fallacious. It felt vital for individuals to know.”

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