Constance Demby, “The Electronica High Priestess of Priestesses.”
A while back a friend of mine was telling me about a video he had seen of a woman who played music in her apartment using experimental musical equipment. My friend, an experienced and worldly musician, said that it looked as though she might have rigged her apartment with equipment that she had built herself. I was, of course, intrigued, but unfortunately, that’s where the trail of this very interesting sounding woman ended. Until last week that is. The woman in question is Constance Demby and, as it turns out, the “instrument” she was playing in the video was in fact something that she had created called a “Space Bass.” Demby’s massive Space Bass consists of ten-feet of mirrored stainless steel that can produce five octaves of sound via their attached steel and brass rods. According to Demby’s website, a person with the very groovy job title of “Sound Scientist” was able to surmise that the sound waves on the lowest notes of the instrument were approximately thirty feet long.
Born in Oakland, California, Demby’s musical talent was discovered early and by the age of twelve, she had already been studying classical piano for four years. After her family moved to the east coast, the now teenage Demby was personally responsible for creating a jazz ensemble at her high school. She would later enroll in college but would leave sometime in 1960 taking up residence in the bohemian mecca that is (well, was) Greenwich Village. Over the course of the next decade, Demby’s real experimentation with music would flourish. During her time in the Village, she would meet Robert Rutman—a notable and fantastically talented German-born musician who had a particular affinity for idiophones, which are instruments that generate music by way of vibration. Together Rutman and Demby would hold collaborative performances using their unique instruments which would eventually lead them to relocate together to Maine where they formed the completely excellent sounding Central Maine Power Music Company (CMPMC). After about six years of touring and playing live gigs with the various other musicians that were a part of the CMPMC, Demby and Rutman parted ways in the mid-70s.
Constance Demby behind the wall of sound that is her “Space Bass.”
Demby’s professional accomplishments are vast and include the completion of over a dozen studio albums, Grammy nominations, the creation of her record label, Sound Currents, as well as designing her sonic musical instruments. During her long career, she has been called the “undisputed founder of Symphonic Sacred Spacemusic” and the “Godmother of contemporary classical electronic music.” Demby has collaborated on musical scores with the Dalai Lama, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and George Lucas. And that’s where Demby’s “Space Bass” comes into higher prominence as Lucas has used the instrument to create atmospheric ruminations which were officially licensed for use in scores by Lucas Films.
More after the jump…