Kaki King has always done unusual things to her guitar. Watch her very first music video for 2004's “Playing With Pink Noise,” and it’s clear from the percussive, frenzied fret-tapping that the Brooklyn-based musician is not your average axe-shredder. In her near-13-year career that’s seen six studio albums and a Golden-Globe nomination for best original score, King has earned critical acclaim for the way she combines unusual tunings, complex fingerstyle picking, and slap bass techniques to create soundscapes that range from instrumental acoustic work to high-voltage rock songs.
Now, she’s using her guitar in an entirely new way: as a projection screen. In late January, King and New York production company Glowing Pictures launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body, an hour-long performance featuring all-new material that treats her guitar as a blank canvas. As King plays the guitar, software will analyze the sounds she’s making and project them back as a variety of different textures and skins, creating an immersive light show about the complex relationship between musician and instrument.
So far, fans have raised close to $40,000 in advance of the project’s February 20 deadline—well above the original goal of $25,000. King, who recently finished recording the album that she’ll debut live in New York on March 6, spoke to The Atlantic about the project’s inspirations, her synesthesia, and what she’s still learning about the guitar after three decades of playing it.
If a band wrote on their website said, “Give us money so we can make an ambitious multimedia experience,” I’d be skeptical. But this project seems so in line with what you normally do as a musician and performer. Did it always seem natural to you?
It came out of a long period of brainstorming—what can I do next, what would work, what wouldn’t. Really lighting up the guitar in that way, once you see it, even on the video, it looks like it should have been done already. It’s not a big stretch for me, having tried to stretch the guitar’s boundaries for a long time.