Artist Spotlight: Alex Cunningham

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Alex Cunningham for Sound of STL

One thing that may surprise a lot of people about St. Louis is how expansive our experimental music scene is. Every week there are multiple shows featuring noise music and free form jazz. While many artists choose to perform on production equipment, there are the few that turn to classical instruments to get their unique sound.  Among those artists is violinist Alex Cunningham, who performs with Vernacular String Trio, as well as his duo Hess/Cunningham who was featured on the site this July. Alex has been performing in the scene for almost five years, and has really become an integrated member of the culture around town. Tomorrow night is a big night for the artist, as he will be officially releasing his latest album, Ache, with a show at Foam on Cherokee.

“The St. Louis music community has been extremely inspirational and supportive. There is a surplus of excellent, adventurous music occurring every week.”
– Alex Cunningham

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Alex Cunningham for Sound of STL

Alex is more than just a violinist, with his work in the past expanding from guitar, to piano, to even trumpet. Through performing and promoting shows he also found a love for visual art, taking inspiration from the music he was playing. You can see his collage fueled flyer designs around town, and you can even see his work in the form of his album art for Ache.

When it comes to inspiration, Alex is all over the board. One of the surprising things to hear is his interest in fiddle music, which has found a way into his very intense performing style. In his free time he finds himself listening to free jazz, including greats like Alice Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and the Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble. Recently he has even taken an interest to old film soundtracks he checks out at the local library, with thoughts of deconstructing and evolving them into new compositions.

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Alex Cunningham for Sound of STL

With every performance we’ve seen featuring Alex there is the same level of passion of and integrity as an artist. Despite his sound being completely modern and unexpected, there is a certain part of his playing that evokes a mystical old world feeling. During his solo sets he pours over his violin, creating beautiful droning improvisational noise. Every inch of his body is thrown into the performance, making it very emotional and spiritual to watch.

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Alex Cunningham @ Noizette Spring Edition

When it comes to emotion, his new project, Ache, does not disappoint. The album is 25 minutes in length and is performed on Alex’s go to instrument, an amplified violin. Throughout his practices he began to experiment with drone-heavy sounds and melodies, which all came together during a performance at KWUR this February. It was from that recorded session that the basis for Ache was formed. Because the composition is meant to be performed live, the fluid piece leaves room for him to improvise and elaborate as needed. But for Alex the recorded version for the album, done by Ryan Wasoba at Bird Cloud Recording, stands out as his favorite version.

If you’ve never seen Alex perform before, tomorrow’s release at Foam is a great opportunity to check him out. The show begins at 8:00 PM and features Bob Bucko Jr and Musth Bardo. Definitely not a show to miss with a ticket cost of just $5.00. You can also stream his album Ache anytime using the link below:

a3892981010_16Alex Cunningham’s “Ache” – Listen Here

Also from the artist:

Alex’s first release “Kinesthetics”:  Listen Here
Vernacular String Trio – “Parlance”: Listen Here
Hess/Cunningham Duo: Listen Here

Check out more photos from our session with Alex below:

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