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How a performance for "massed guitar" in Durham will work

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Triangle Rhysing is a musical suite for massed electric guitars, a concept sparked in the '80s by New York composer and bandleader Rhys Chatham. In spite of the name, though, Triangle Rhysing wasn't motivated only by the work of Rhys Chatham.

Sure, the avant garde pioneer's 2011 performance at Raleigh's Hopscotch Music Festival, where he mustered his seminal Guitar Trio with a crew of a dozen, was a catalyst. But the project's main inspiration was a six-guitar presentation at Chapel Hill's Nightlight titled Dreamweapon II.

"It was loud. It was quite noisy and a hell of a lot of fun," remembers Andras Fekete. He's a key cog in the raucous and ambitious post-rock of the band Boat Burning and one of Rhysing's two composers. His co-conspirator Matt Guess, who plays guitar in The White Cascade, spawned the concept.

"Matt approached me about scaling this Dreamweapon thing up into something bigger. We must have talked for hours," he says. "The challenge, as we saw it, was to create a piece that maintains all the power—that sheer, physical thrall that the phrase 'massive electric guitar ensemble' conjures—while still establishing some kind of structure."

They summoned four pieces, performed for the first time in 2011 at the Nightlight with nearly two dozen guitarists. The next year, the ensemble expanded beyond 30 members. This year, 55 guitarists will join three singers, two cellists and a drummer.

One element that distances Rhysing from its namesake is the unorthodox setup: On Saturday, the guitarists will line the walls at Durham's Motorco Music Hall, surrounding listeners in a pit of escalating overtones.

This article appeared in print with the headline "330-string guitar."

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