Penguins have long been an inspiration to musicians. Allegedly. In the ’50s it was said that the way Chilly Willy played solos on his ice sax inspired Ornette Coleman, and in the early 1960s the way Tennessee Tuxedo waddled in syncopation was supposedly so thrilling it inspired an entire generation of free-jazz drummers. These tales may or may not be tall, but guitarist Henry Kaiser (pictured left) will soon find out about the Power of the Pens: He has been in Antarctica since December, and he won’t return to his Northern California home until February.
Kaiser has been living with 1,000 American scientists and staff at McMurdo Station participating in the National Science Foundation’s 2001-2002 Artists and Writers program, which for the past 30 years has brought photographers, sculptors and writers to the land of ice…and penguins, which should inspire the solo guitar CD he’s recording while there.
To help his musical gear combat the extreme conditions Kaiser is using custom-designed guitars from Renaissance by Rick Turner. The “Miss Antarctica” guitar is built with composite of graphite and epoxy-injected wood. Kaiser says, “You could leave it out in the snow for a couple of hours, then bring it into the sauna and it won’t explode; it’ll still sound good.” The Thomastik-Infeld strings Kaiser is using have extended playing life and low string tension, which reduces stress on the neck during thermal changes. “There really is a South Pole, and I’m going to slide the strings on it while walking around all the points of the compass,” Kaiser says. “I call it ‘Slide Guitar Around the World’.”
For updates on Kaiser’s Antarctic recording project, log on to www.henrykaiser.net. For information on animated penguins, log on to www.toonopedia.com.Originally Published