photo by Jim Barcus
The Kansas City composer seeks to bridge the performing and visual arts and help curate the Midwestern music scene
In just under 10 years, Kansas City composer Seth Andrew Davis, 28, has turned the role of the traditional musician on its side, combining the roles of performer, composer, improviser, producer, technologist and electric guitarist into one holistic endeavor.
“I view it all as one thing that feeds off each other, Davis says. “I can’t do one without the other. My training as a composer helps me think about organizing or generating ideas differently, which feeds my being an improviser and (going) back and forth through all these different roles.”
The interspersing of roles evident in his many performances is also apparent in the multi-layered, textural soundscapes he creates within his art. One example is the peer-reviewed piece “Chomsky Hash,” which was recently performed in Ireland at the University of Limerick for the International Computer Music Conference. The work involves an orgiastic solo sonic guitar medley, replete with dextrous noodlings, electronics and quadraphonic sound systems.
Davis is active in Kansas City as a 2019-2022 Charlotte Street Studio Resident, co-founder of Mother Brain Records and The Extemporaneous Music and Arts Society, and vice president of the Kansas City Electronic Music and Arts Alliance (KcEMA). With fellow musician and Mother Brain Records co-founder Michael Eaton, he also specializes in digital and analog output of various music releases. This includes around 30 distinct releases over the past few years, and Davis has also done tape releases on other labels. Mother Brain Records maintains an active and curated internet presence.
Seeming to echo the work ethic of Bob Dylan and the classical training and discipline of Frank Zappa, Davis maintains a dizzyingly busy performance schedule, full of constant collaborations, ensemble work, record and mixtape releases, residencies, tours and shows throughout the Midwest and abroad. Most recently, he performed in London off the heels of his well-received International Computer Music Conference performance in Limerick. Other spots on a typical touring route outside the Midwest include art galleries in Ithaca and New York City.
These days, Davis continues his musical passions while tempering them with the life of a graduate student at the University of Central Missouri. Currently wrapping up an M.M. degree with a specialization in music technology, Davis also acts as a graduate teaching assistant in applied music technology at the school.
Poised to graduate in spring 2023, Davis has a clear idea of where he wants to go. “I have influences and reference them, but I’m not trying to be them,” he said. “I want to bridge the performing and visual arts . . . and help curate the midwestern music scene.”
Davis cites modernism, visual art, history and film theory as big inspirations to his oeuvre and often reads about film and other electronic arts. He believes that knowing history has helped with his improvisation and performance practice and guitar electronics, and diving into it helps him “. . . know what has happened and what is going on to go forward.” He is “obsessed,” he says, “with the entire history of music and trying to reconcile all things within it.”
The Kansas City music scene is fortunate to have a workmanlike Renaissance soundman among its number. And while some musicians prefer the knock-down-drag-out clunking of a few chord progressions, Davis likes to synthesize the convergence or divergence of history as a roadmap for pushing the medium forward. He believes it is “ . . . important to have self-awareness, self-critique to move forward. It’s important to know the history; if you try something new, you must know what’s happened before.” As Davis explains with a grin, this is why “I’m always working on stuff.”
Davis made a Midwest tour at the end of February and will have a stint in Texas in March 2023. Both are with Evan Verploegh’s and Davis’s duo Torches Mauve.
For more information, visit www.sethandrewdavis.com.