Avant-metal pierces the Conservatory

by Emily Manzo

Posters dotted the campus this week advertising for Mirthkon, Conservatory junior Wally Scharold's CD release. Scharold is one of several students who will make their recording debut this fall, adding a great wealth to the selection under "Oberlin Musicians" on sale at the Co-op Bookstore.

Scharold tells an elaborate tale of artistic development, from his past metal band "Dingleberry Phynns" to the discovery of George Crumb and John Coltrane. He blends his jazz and classical training, with the added influence of Doctor Nerve and Mr. Bungle.

A turning point in Scharold's career as a young composer was his first exposure to the music of Frank Zappa. "I loved the complexity and virtuosity of Zappa's music, the idea of a rock band playing like a contemporary chamber ensemble. And I appreciated the social commentary on what I heavily agreed was a shitty world filled with stupid people."

It is not surprising that most of Scharold's own compositional creativity has been based in Ćavant rock,' or the idea of using a pop/rock medium to present Ćartsy' ideas. Although more recently, "I've gone back to my roots and ventured into avant-metal, a genre where there is much ground yet to be broken. Avant-metal is basically the same as avant pop/rock, just a helluvalot heavier and much more obnoxious," says Scharold. Scharold sites the work of the absurdist and surrealist visual artists, writers and filmmakers as extremely influencial to his growth as a musician.

"My favorites are Yves Tanguy, Andre Breton, Lautremont, Louis Aragon, Hans Richter, Paul Bowles, Antonin Artaud, to name only a few."

Scharold has a vast musical vocabulary ranging from contemporary classical to avant-metal which he incorporates into highly energized, engaging compositions. This native Texan can hear faster than Butch Cassidy could shoot. Mirthkon provides a broad survey of his written and improvised material, compiled from recordings made in Ć98 and Ć99.

"I feel that there is something for everyone on the disc. I also feel there aren't many people who could listen to the entire disc and like every bit of it," Scharold admits. "I'd like to think that I'm wrong about that, though. It is a matter of personal taste, or perhaps mood that track1, a highly charged metal infusion would appeal to some listeners less than track 3, an excerpt from Scharold's rock opera, or track 9, a guitar improvisation dedicated to one of the great innovators of the century, Derek Bailey. If there is something that cannot be argued, it is that Scharold's unique compositional voice pervades all styles, and each track of Mirthkon stands on its own.

Scharold's success reaches past his self-released label, extending impressively to Cuneiform Records, home of Fred Frith, The Muffins, Henry Kaiser. Mirthkon will be available from their catalog in January.

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Copyright © 1999, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 128, Number 7, October 29, 1999

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