About Acoustic Noire
What we do:
Acoustic Noire is the collaborative effort of Rob Dewar and Phil Patenaude, two highly-experienced musicians who live in two rural valleys located in the outskirts of Summerland, British Columbia, Canada. Between the two of them, they possess over seven decades of guitar playing and performance experience.
The name "Acoustic Noire" came up in a text message session between Rob and Phil, discussing possible names for the duet. The association with the name "film noir" was the basis of the idea, as our music is sometimes dark, and often moody and mysterious, as were films from the film noir genre of the 1940s and '50s.
Acoustic Noire's concept is to get as much musical possibility as our imaginations and fingers can extract exclusively from two acoustic guitars, with no vocals, percussion or other added sounds, or any overdubbing or audio effects in our recordings, aside from some added basic ambience. Of course, there is still the occasional bit of percussion heard in our music, but it is always created with the guitars, live, as a part of the performance.
We work with the ideas of rhythm, arpeggiation, melody, harmony, dissonance, counterpoint, percussion, dynamics, orchestration and live solo improvisation. In creating our music, we look for a central theme to write around, whether it's an ethnic flavour, a particular music style, or maybe an emotional story line, and we try to stick to that concept fairly closely, while we blend and orchestrate our parts and create sections that sometimes come across almost as distinct movements in our songs. To keep things interesting, we look for ways to use orchestral variation to continuously alter and progress with the flavour and tone of the piece, while still implying the original theme or concept, and some essence of the parts that came before. The result, is a collection of highly-listenable, but also highly variable musical pieces that capture a theme or a sound and present it, sometimes in a variety of ways as the piece progresses, resulting in a richly-detailed, constantly-evolving and unique musical and emotional experience.
Acoustic Noire's philosophy is embodied in Mahatma Ghandi's statement, "Be the change you wish to see in the world". If we had it our way, musicians, producers and artists in general would always strive to create and present the very best, highest-quality and most heartfelt work they were capable of, and they'd be free to do just that. There would be little mass-produced, mediocre artistic work being put out there for a quick buck.... but then, that's because there would be no set admission or purchase prices charged to view or hear even the highest-quality artistic work, either. The level of artistry would be truly inspiring, and the "buck" would be a very secondary consideration to the art. Artistic endeavours and contractual commercialism would be almost completely exclusive from each other, and yet, good, diligent artists would still easily be able to live on their craft, because they would have produced something original, valuable and worthy of that support, and their skill and effort would in turn be well-recognized by their appreciative fans, who would turn up in numbers to their shows, because the show quality would be impressive, and there wouldn't be set financial limits on admission. After all, skilled creative work is truly rather priceless, no?
Sound like a fantasy world? We feel that our modern world suffers intensely from the degradation of virtually everything into a dollar figure, arts included, with profit as the only real motivator behind so many endeavours, nowadays, and very much to the detriment of many aspects of our society. In our modern scheme of things, a very small group of artists are chosen to be the world-acclaimed "stars", and they are then strategically used almost solely for their marketing potential, in an almost entirely profit-driven framework. Their craft and art, at one point their purpose for doing what they do, become all too often secondary considerations, and frequently, the "stars" end up promoting someone else's music, often pushed on them by their promoters and financial backers, solely with the intention of gaining the biggest mass market possible. But meanwhile, the other similarly-talented artists who aren't the "stars" are left to grovel for enough value from their work to even survive.
Because of this, and the perceived need to fit in and court the mass market themselves, most working artists cannot afford to invest much serious time into their development, and the pursuit of ever-higher quality and originality in their art suffers out of necessity. By extension, so does the entire field of professional musicianship and performance. Along with this, rising ticket prices have served to limit the audiences to those with disposable cash. We believe this should not be a necessity.
Acoustic Noire seeks to be that change, first, by writing music that is (we think) truly artistic in nature, with its focus on creativity, quality, depth and variety, rather than quick writing and radio-friendliness. We then present it with world-class skill and an interestingly interactive stage manner. Or, so we've been told. The biggest step, though, is that we have largely removed the commercial undertone from our work, by performing only by donation. We have no set ticket prices for our shows, and seek the presentation of our art to our audiences unfettered by the cheerless and restrictive nature of blatant commercialism.
There is no doubt that many people of modest means would attend live performances, if not for the high cost of an average venue ticket, nowadays, and many more shows would be performed, if artists, managers and talent agents were not almost always concerned only with the guaranteed profit potential of their shows, and perhaps more with the presentation of true quality work to an enthusiastic audience.
Of course, at this point, very few other participants in the music "industry" and its associated services see things this way, so Acoustic Noire still has to pay set costs for venue space, ticket printing and sales, insurances, food, travel, accommodation, recording, CDs and merch, technicians and support staff, guitars and guitar strings, and life when we're not performing, too... on and on. Accordingly, we still need our fan's earnest help to keep ourselves alive and keep the music going.... but we rely on providing an exceptional performance, great music and an overall high-quality and satisfying experience to our audiences, and allow them to pay what they think is fair, in exchange for the hours and effort we invest and the unique art we bring to them.
While some people may see this as an opportunity to attend a professional guitar show and get "something for nothing", those folks, if they could afford to donate something to the cause, are truly missing the point. Still, the concept of "donation" necessarily includes free admission, but we trust that we can bring a unique performance to the stage - one that inspires our listeners - and that, in turn, most of our audience members will enjoy our show and see the value in what we do, and its worth to themselves and to society as a whole, and those who can afford to, will donate from their heart. And, to those who cannot afford to donate, we still gladly offer the opportunity to take a seat and enjoy our musical performance, as we believe that this experience should be available to all.
We're being the change we wish to see in the world, and allowing our audiences to join us in making that change a regular part of our society, while they help us to keep quality art and music in the esteemed position it deserves, too. One step at a time. Help us be the change.
About Rob Dewar
My life seems to have been built around sound. I have a background in audio engineering and music production, and at one point taught college on those and other audio-related subjects over a nine-year period in Kelowna, BC. My musical aspirations go back to my early childhood, when I was introduced to piano at the age of six, but I eventually lost serious interest in that instrument and began playing guitar at the age of nine, on my own initiative and without lessons, restringing an old Mexican guitar, tuning it to our piano and teaching myself the eight chords I found depicted on the fretboard grids in an old folk song book, over an evening. I played rhythmic acoustic chordal music on my own for some five years after that, until I was 14 years old, when I took two school years of weekly lessons on electric guitar. There, I learned how to play bar chords, the almighty blues scale and one position of a major scale, along with being given some soloing advice. From there, my creative side flourished, and I took my own route, developing my own fretboard "pattern" system from the basic knowledge I had absorbed to that point, and applying that to first learning a massive number of Jimi Hendrix's songs, and then to following a few '80s rock-god guitarists, such as Edward Van Halen. With time, my interests expanded into the realm of jazz and fusion, with players such as George Benson and Allan Holdsworth.
It was in 1995, while I was the proprietor of a small music store in Penticton, BC, that I was introduced to classical guitarist William Leggott, and we began to jam together occasionally, though the electric and classical guitars were rather disparate instruments. It was William who suggested that I try to play my melodies and leads on an acoustic guitar, which started me on a renewed love affair with that instrument that has never waned. William and I formed the Latin acoustic guitar duet "Leggott & Dewar", and performed numerous shows in the Okanagan and in the Vancouver area over many years.
It was also during my time at the music store that I first met Phil Patenaude, who initially appeared in my store as a customer in 1995. Though we became easy and comfortable friends, we seldom met up, one time spanning a gap of over a decade between meetings, and it was not until 2013 that we actually sat down to record a jam, and then not again until 2015, that we actually saw one another once more, and decided to continue on that tack, reviewed the jam recording, and began formally writing the music for what was to become Acoustic Noire.
My mainstay in the guitar world is lead improvisation, and I use that medium as an inspiration for writing melodies and textures, often playing improv over a rhythmic chordal progression that Phil keeps looping, or occasionally varying, until something magical pops up, sometimes sooner, or sometimes, much later. In the duet, my solos are always improvised live, and are thus generally unique to each rendition of a piece, so regardless of how much rehearsal time we invest, there's still an edge of variation, shifting tension, fire and uncertainty in our performances. My inspiration in writing and performing Acoustic Noire's music, is to give our audiences a real treat of great music and deep, evolving emotions, with a little excitement at seeing how we play what we do, live, tossed in just for fun.
I live alone in the rural lands west of Summerland, BC, in a quiet, natural spot where I can grow my rather large cactus collection, listen to the natural environment at my doorstep and contemplate life, music and the workings of our energetic universe.
About Phil Patenaude
My unique style of playing is the result of many years of maintaining a steady love for the guitar. Growing up in the rich multi-cultural setting of Montreal, Quebec, surrounded by Quebec's rich folk music tradition, Montreal's International Jazz Festival concerts and a variety of televised concert recordings, an abundance of world-class music came with every season, and I was never short of musical inspiration.
After many years of developing an ear for great music, my first guitar chords were strummed at the age of 17. A mix of lessons and countless hours of dissecting chords prepared me for where I am today.
After years of honing my unique chordal playing style, my collaborative abilities have facilitated the creation of an orchestrated guitar duet. Within the orchestrated genre, I and my music partner set out to showcase the guitar's true acoustic nature and make complex arrangements from just two guitars. For me, the opportunity to co-create and share the many moods and colours of what the acoustic guitar can bring is a dream come true.
In the rehearsal studio, my creative input usually comes out as chord-based rhythmic ideas and snapshots that were collected over time. Such ideas are brought to the table and serve as a backdrop for Rob's melodic leads and creative direction in orchestrating the many parts. Bouncing ideas back and forth along with hours of improvising on a theme comes to a grand finale once the whole story is composed and told.
I live in Summerland, where I and my wife own an acreage and horses. English dressage training, guitar lessons and a 10 year old tree climber are some of the sights and sounds you will encounter when visiting our home.
Some of Phil's thoughts on the value and expression of music:
Considering what hymns can do for spirituality, I recognize music's ability to influence the listener in self-transforming ways.
I like to think of each song as a world that is experienced through detailed and distinct pieces of events, all unified under a grand musical story.
As a rhythm player, part of the songwriting process involves introducing chord patterns and sonic regularities which in turn ignite unconscious predictions of what's coming next. Allowing the dance between expectation and outcome, between imposing and letting go, we always reach an expanded point of balance where, if it feels right, we know we've been rewarded.
If I had to distill the heart and soul of our acoustic duet, I would say that, beyond the core of our mission to commit to completion of our vision of music success, what underlies and oversees all intents and purposes is to "Serve the Song" - write the part that makes the song its very best.
I like to think of my role as a musician as acting in honesty as a medium between the sensual world of sound and the invisible world of spirit.
I am forever an admirer and student of the well-crafted song. Great songs can do real magic. Musicians, or Sound Sorcerers, have the power to establish a Sanctuary of Set and Setting in order to Stir the Soul, stimulate vivid imagery, bring about epiphanies, divination and the healing of the heart.
A couple of quotes from one of the greats in modern musical composition reach the heart of the matter for me, very succinctly:
"When people say "I know nothing about music", they mean that - "I have never been to school, I never learned notes", which I never did myself, and I still don't. You can't say that you don't know about music, because music made you."
"The key word is to be available, and when you are available, you are like a radar. Then the message comes, and then you have it." - Vangelis