David Bernabo’s Unreliable Narrator Tones

David Bernabo is a musician, animator, writer, artist, and he holds a full time gig–to pay the bills. We met in his Bloomfield home-studio to discuss his contribution to Locally Toned–two highly original, and heavily edited audio tracks Unreliable Narrator and Another Unreliable Narrator.

“Each is made up of numerous recordings I’ve made or collected over the years, including one that my grandfather made. He was an accordion player and in 1941, as people could in those days, he drove down to Virginia or something and plopped down the money to have his own record made. But there are sounds from our weddings–my wife and I had four of them–specifically, there’s sound from a mirror installation that moved, built by the artist Joshua Space. Basically I raided my audio archive to reconfigure and change the context of these sounds. And there’s definitely a nod to a simple [interactive] computer [fiction] game called Zork–in the way the narrator takes us to places in both that game and my ringtones.

My stories are random–non linear–narration for the sake of narration, rather than having a particular origin–these stories are complete non sequiturs, but I use a calm, reassuring voice. I made these pieces as ringtones, but I might put out all these tracks as a 7 inch vinyl record.”

Bernabo’s studio is full of instruments–a toy piano, a harpsichord, a Wurlitzer, a stack of guitars. It’s where he records music and does editing and graphic design work. He began  playing piano in the 2nd grade; in the 5th grade, he took up the guitar. He also plays a little banjo.

“Right now I’ve got a project with Will Dyar in Santa Fe, New Mexico, called Host Skull. We do pop records, but stranger.” As Bernabo explained it, the collaborators record in Pittsburgh and Santa Fe, respectively, with Dave performing Host Skull music locally (working with musicians here) and Dyar performing their content with musicians out West. Over the years, Bernabo has worked with artists Ben Opie, Boxstep, Vale and Year and Boca Chica. Lately he’s also been working with dancers and doing installations, like “Inhabit Host Skull,” a participatory art work that invited the viewer to complete the work by helping to shape its constantly shifting sound environment.

Above: two images from the “Inhabit Host Skull” installation at 707 Penn Gallery. Left, a room view, and right, a close-up. Below: Bernabo pieces together the front and back cover art for “Happener Magicker,” a David Bernabo + Assembly recording.

Thanks to David Bernabo for composing and sharing his thoughtfully produced and *unreliable* stories with Locally Toned!

This ringtone recording session was made possible by a generous grant from The Fine Foundation.

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