Kaki King is a very good guitar player. One of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists, she uses a fingerstyle technique, interspersing regular strumming with percussive tapping and harmonics to move through complex melodies at breakneck speed. Impressive technique, though, has never been what it's about for King. She creates songs using a broader palette, conveying emotion by pulling a full range of sounds out of her instrument.
Now, after receiving corrective eye surgery in 2008, she's expanded that palette to include the visual element. Her new show, "The Neck is a Bridge to the Body," uses a technology called projection mapping to turn her guitar into a projection screen, on which images and effects move and change.
King plays in Boston this Sunday as part of the free Outside The Box performing arts festival (though she won't be able to use the projector). We sat down with her to discuss the visual show, her approach to music making and where she wants to go from here.
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Did your interest in visuals start with the improvements in your vision in 2008?
I don't necessarily think getting Lasik [eye surgery] led me to making "The Neck," but I do know for a fact that it made the visual world fascinating to me overnight.
I think part of the reason music was important to me was that I could use my ears, and my ears worked great. So for most of my adult life, I kind of ignored the visual world. Painting and art never moved me the way they do now. All this stuff that I never really considered to be as beautiful as people were telling me it was, was suddenly really that beautiful. I got to experience all of this in a new way.
Was there a visual theme you were most interested in?
I think my [visual] theme is variation — wanting to visually showcase the guitar in a multidimensional way.
Any plans to take the show further?
I do. I think it has a second life, and I think this was really an experiment that deserves round two because its been so successful almost despite itself. I really had no idea what I was doing and yet this show managed to tour the world for three years and continues to tour, so I am definitely in the planning stages of a follow-up show.
People often talk about your technical ability, but what do you really want to convey through your music?
I think what really happens, and I'll repeat it again and again, is that people get so caught up in how I do what I do, when really what I do is: I write songs, I'm a composer. Technique is just a means to get out what you have to say.
If you go:
July 17 at 8 p.m.