' The Music of David First


It seems reasonable to assert that David First has had a rather eclectic musical career. He has played guitar with renowned jazz innovator/pianist Cecil Taylor (culminating in a legendary Carnegie Hall concert) and the rock band Televisionís Richard Lloyd. He has created electronic music at Princeton University and led a Mummerís String Band in bicentennial parades. He has played in raucous, drunken bar bands and in concert halls with classical ensembles. As a composer he has created everything from finely crafted pop songs to long, severely minimalist soundscapes. And his influence on modern music may be incalculable: a 45 single release, The Zipper, by his punk-era rock band, The Notekillers, was cited by Sonic Youthís Thurston Moore as one of the songs he played for the rest of the band when they were starting out. Moore recently called it a "mind-blowing instrumental single" in the British rock magazine Mojo.

Known for his dense, mesmerizing drone structures - which he has been experimenting with since his teens - as well as his intense and highly unusual, minimalist approach to the guitar, First has been a pivotal figure in the world of experimental music, releasing recordings on O.O. Discs, Ecstatic Peace and Analysand as well as works on the CRI, Aerial, Homestead, and EMF labels. A recent CD entitled "Dave's Waves - A Sonic Restaurant" - the music from his sound installation of the same name in Lier, Belgium - was the first international release on the highly regarded Italian label ants.

His music has been performed in the USA at The Kitchen, Bang On A Can, Central Park Summerstage, the CMJ Music Marathon, Joeís Pub, The Knitting Factory, Tonic, Merkin Hall, CBGBís, and The Spoleto Festival. He has also been presented extensively in Europe - appearing at Podewil, the USArts Festival, Institut Unzeit (Berlin) as well as at De Ijsbreker (Amsterdam), the Heidelberger Festival for Experimental Music and Literature (Heidelberg), ZwischenTone Festival (K–ln), The Impakt Festival (Utrecht), Het Apollohuis (Eindhoven), and the Brugge Concertgebeouw (Brugge). First has also presented sound installations at Kunstforeningen (Copenhagen), the Uppsala Konstmuseum (Uppsala), Exit Art (New York), Voorkamer (Lier) and Studio Five Beekman (NYC).

First has garnered an impressive amount of glowing press over the years. He has been called "a fascinating artist with a singular technique" in The New York Times, and "a bizarre cross between Hendrix and La Monte Young" in The Village Voice. Regarding the New York production of his opera created in response to the AIDS crisis, The Manhattan Book of the Dead, Kyle Gann of The Village Voice wrote: "The music grew and grew in scintillating, illusionary beauty long past the point at which you thought it could still surpass itself". First was also proclaimed "the next big thing in guitar gods" by K. Leander Williams in Time Out New York. He has also been featured in numerous publications. There have been articles about him in both Guitar Player and Keyboard Magazine as well as in MusikTexte (Germany), Arude, Atlantica (Spain) and a recent issue of Tape Op . There are chapters about his music in the books American Music in the Twentieth Century (Gann/Schirmer) and La Musica Minimalista (Antognozzi/Edizioni Textus) and the just published, Music Downtown (Gann/UofC Press).

When The World Trade Towers were attacked on September 11th, 2001, First ñ who lived two blocks from Ground Zero - was forced to leave his home. Escaping - along with hundreds of others - over the Brooklyn Bridge after the second tower collapse, he was out of his home for two weeks. Shortly after his return he wrote and recorded a song entitled "Jump Back - an ode to the people of New York City". From October 2001 to January 2002 First gave out over 4,000 of these CDís at the Ground Zero site, at firehouses, related benefits, on the subway, etc. As Time Out New York's Jay Ruttenberg wrote: "Spirited, uplifting, and honest, it (Jump Back) makes a nice candidate for a time-capsule piece about this autumn". First was also cited for his efforts in an article by Jon Pareles in The New York Times and by The New York Resident which named him one of the "Top 100 New Yorkers of 2002". In November of 2001 he performed the song at the United Nations. This song remains available on this website.

In December 2004 First received Honorable Mention for his article "The Music of the Sphere: An Investigation into Asymptotic Harmonics, Brainwave Entrainment, and the Earth as a Giant Bell" (Leonardo Music Journal, Vol. 13). This annual award recognizes excellence in articles published in Leonardo, Leonardo Music Journal (LMJ) and Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA). download the article here

In 2001, First was awarded the prestigious "Grant to Artists" from the Foundation of Contemporary Performance Arts - an organization founded by John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg. He has also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Copland Foundation and the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, among others. Also in 2001, First was awarded the Neupauer Conservatoryís (Phila.) highest honor - the Order of the Shield - for his "achievements in the world of music".

Recent projects include a Notekillers CD on Thurston Mooreís Ecstatic Peace label, an audio/video performance and cyber-based project called Operation:Kracpot that explores Firstís investigations into brainwave manipulation and the Earthís electromagnetic field, a CD - Tokyo Could Not be Opened Because Tokyo Could Not be Found ñ by The Lazy Eyes, a duo project with singer-songwriter Stephanie St. John - with all tracks produced and arranged by First and a techno dance single featuring the sounds of elephants called "Eletranz" that is being released in Thailand to help support the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. Upcoming is Privacy Issues - a 3-CD release of drone compositions from the past ten years on the XI label and a new CD from the Notekillers featuring songs written in the past year by First.

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