Neil Feather doesn’t listen to music. Not as background when the artist is working, anyway. “Clouds the mind,” he says.
It may seem funny for a sound sculptor to say, but as you spend time with the provocative insights Feather shares in the new documentary film Sound Mechanic, it makes sense. Feather is an artist for whom sound is very much a conscious engagement; it is not meant to be relegated to the background.
Sound Mechanic, directed by Skizz Cyzyk, is a verité journey into Feather’s world, filled with imaginative musical performance and Goldberg-esque contraptions bent on changing the ways audiences engage music-making.
Feather’s instruments, crafted from magnets, guitar strings and pickups attached to bowling balls, bicycle parts and hobby horses, are given names as fantastic as the sounds they produce: the Vibrowheel, the Wiggler, the Contraction, the Former Guitar. And over the years, Feather’s invented instruments have not only made him a staple of Baltimore’s experimental music scene, they have helped him garner numerous prizes, including both the Sondheim and the Trawick prizes in 2014, and a Guggenheim in 2016.