Mark Schirmacher is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer-songwriter, LoFi artist, writer, performer, and collaborator based in Minneapolis / St. Paul Minnesota.
“MUSIC SHOULD BE OF THE MOMENT, AN OUTWARD TRANSMISSION FROM OUR HEARTS, A DECISIVE REFLECTION OF OUR INTERNAL LANDSCAPE”
Mark has been writing and performing music since discovering his father’s classical guitar as a child, and singing in school & church choirs…
The fire of recording music by myself was set under me by Simon & Garfunkel’s Only Living Boy In New York, which I multi-tracked by myself in my bedroom as a teenager, singing and playing first into a crappy portable tape deck, then playing that loudly over my boombox and singing harmonies and playing along with it whilst recording again on said crappy tapedeck. Voila, I had multi-tracked myself – 2 vocals, 2 guitars (look out Les Paul!) – and I was on my way.Mark’s memory
So, the journey of discovery continued. First as a child singing in church – hymns that were rigid, comforting, isolated by vocal ranges (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) and accompanied by giant pipe organ (such a bad-ass instrument that used so little of it’s ominous potential!), and then in church and school choirs. Lots of singing, I guess.
All along the way, I was making connections with what I was hearing around me. For example, in 5th grade (1982), Cooper Finseth and I formed the “Beatles Fan Club,” of which we were the first (and only lol) members. Inspired by The Beatles’ music that was swirling around us on school bus radios, Dayton’s music section record shelves, local record stores (The Wax Museum, Robbinsdale MN [RIP]), and in adult and teenage conversation ever since John Lennon’s then-recent death in 1980, we adored The Beatles’ music, their personalities, their daring with instruments and buffoonery. So the Beatles Fan Club was chartered to meet once a month at the local park, with pop and chips as the declared meeting apportions, and we’d discuss and revel in the majesty of music laid out for us by John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I think we made one meeting and that was about it…
Armed with the musical foundation of Bach, Mozart, The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, church songs from the sacred cannon, musical theatre such as Annie, The Music Man, and Oklahoma!, the sonic foundation was set for two important discoveries: 1) The classical guitar in the closet, and 2) The drumset that pissed off Bernie R. These two instruments did more to change the way Mark would approach music than any other encounters to date, and it all starts with taking risks:
A guitar lived in the closet at my parent’s house. It never came out, never got played, and I was sort of vaguely aware of its existence. I was soon to become aware of its power. I think my dad acquired this plain, classical guitar during the same American cultural group-think moment when he picked up his first (and only?) pair of clogs, also which seemed to reside someplace, ne’r to be used in the light of sensible day, but this guitar was different. My dad is a wonderful musician, a teacher of music and a choir director – showman – at heart, but he never played this guitar. After taking it out a few times, laying down the case, opening it up and plucking at the strings, I decided to ask the old man about my keeping it up in my room and learning to play it. He said “sure” and from that point on (8th grade?) I was hooked. The guitar seemed to take over my brain, and acted as a key that unlocked so many of the doors and panels that stood all around me. I could “hear” music in different ways, like a color-coded overlay that exposed what secret phrases laid underneath – does this make sense? I’m not explaining it right. Let’s try this, when I started learning guitar, I could hear those chords and notes – and specifically the chord shapes – in the songs I was listening to. The “D” chord has a sound, light on the bottom and the high 3rd on top, the “G” chord is fat on the bottom, open and octavous in the middle, and another reinforcing G on top. These chords and newfound structures were all around me on the radio, in rock and pop music and I heard them all for the first time, crystal clear, like the scrim had been pulled away and the bare bones of music’s construction had been uncovered.
Then there was the matter of the drumset that pissed off Bernie R. In the basement at a friend’s house, there sat a gorgeous, sparkly jazz kit from the 1960’s, maybe a Gretsch, and it sat at the end of this basement overlooking the lake, just begging someone to sit behind it and make that sparkle worth it.
This drumset belonged to my friend Bernie’s dad. He used to play, but I only saw him with his pipe and his paper, for real, and if there was a fire there, had gone out long ago. Being an annoying friend, I sat behind the drumset one day while hanging out at his house, and started playing it. The weird thing is, I didn’t try to play it, I just sat down and started playing it. Like I already knew how to do it. It was a surreal moment for me, being aware of my capability and the thrill of discovery gripping the deepest parts of my brain and my being…the kick drum does this, the right hand goes over here and does this to the high-hat, the left hand crosses under and hits the snare on these beats, the ride cymbal over there makes this sound and it goes well with this type of beat…and I was playing the drum set. And what a sound! Huge, dynamic, responsive, LOUD – I loved it. And Bernie hated it. There are so many reasons for this, I think, and I’ve often been the worst friend to many of my dearest friends, but at this moment, I was being classically selfish and rationalizing my enjoyment of this musical discovery MORE than being pained by my host’s annoyance at my unbridled enthusiasm for this loud instrument that his dad barely played…
Drums, guitar, The Beatles, classical music, and with high school right around the corner, the music that was forthcoming would bear all these imprints, like a roadmap (or a toolkit?) for musical discoveries to come.
end of ch.1
CHAPTER 2 – The coming of age
So, guitar, drums, piano, trumpet, ukulele, and singing. These tools and “lenses” I used to view the world became my ingredients in all the things I would cook up from here on out. I made friends with people, and invariably, music was an active component in what we’d do together. Discovering rock & roll music in my bedroom with my a.m. transistor radio was first – Foreigner singing “I’ve been waiting (for a girl like you)” blew my mind. Such an intimate sound in this big music, it hat all the instruments I could play in it – drums, guitar, piano, singing – but it configured them in such a new and emotionally potent way. I could really feel the desperation & longing in the singer’s voice, and the whole band supported the singer’s vision. I wasn’t allowed to listen to rock & roll as an 11 yr. old, something my parents were foolishly overprotective about, looking back. If anything, rock & roll was saving my soul. It was giving me coping tools and outlets for my strong emotions, varied musical ideas, and a path forward out of blasé patterns-to-come of work, sleep, eat, school, etc…