Some excerpts from Unlikely Persona: Jerry Hunt (1943-1993)
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Jerry perform. It was in 1984 at a music festival in Ohio. The curtain opened to reveal upstage a modest clump of homemade and off-the-shelf electronic instruments. Jerry appeared from behind the setup, pushed a few buttons and began the piece. The music coming from the loudspeakers was a tapestry of sampled instruments — mainly bowed strings — constantly churning out a dense micropolyphonic web based on clusters of slow and fast trills. This was accompanied by a host of high-frequency percussive sounds emphasizing rattles, sleigh bells, wind chimes and the like. Loud and unrelenting, it reminded me of a Texas insect chorus on a hot summer night.
While this was going on, Jerry paced the stage holding a variety of homemade hand props: staffs, rattles, different kinds of wands and bells. The rattles were shaken, the staffs stamped loudly on the stage. Some of the wands were quite phallic, and Jerry would make strange motions with them as though they had magical powers. Other wands looked like religious talismans created from junk: an umbrella handle that turned into a cross at the far end, or a stylized metal rod bent into the shape of an astrological symbol. Jerry took out some strange nightlights that he plugged into electrical outlets all over the stage. Later he brought out an old brown suitcase, sat on it like a child’s hobby horse, and slapped it like a bass drum using a thick wooden stick.
The performance was redolent of shamanism, as though demons were being exorcised from the auditorium. But it came from a most unlikely persona: the lanky, bald, bespectacled Jerry Hunt, wearing his trademark unironed white dress shirt, long narrow tie, off-white jacket with unbuttoned cuffs and loose fitting trousers. It was a look I call “central Texas meat inspector” — certainly not what you’d expect from a shaman. It was amusing to watch the spectacle of this mysterious ritual being performed by an utterly mundane-looking man.
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