Sometimes it’s as much about sound as it is music. Enthusiastically embracing the compositional and harmonic approaches of world cultures and traditions – taking everything in – he integrates unexpected forms and sound combinations organically, almost automatically. But it’s not World Music, as it’s come to be known. He is as much a product of his own culture as we all are. He draws deeply from the classical, folk, progressive rock and jazz traditions. Then he throws in a laptop player or something, some spoken word and weaves in a bit of moog. Following that he may take some live recordings of these compositions into the studio, put the front where the back was and the back where the front was, paint it blue and make something completely new out of it.
The process never ends for Charlie. Ending is just another way of beginning. Or he might, equally, be writing a commissioned fantasy suite for church organ, depending on what point in his career you want to look at. He can go from Balkan rhythms to Bebop via Asian inspired lines, all somehow within the same gesture. And all the while sidestepping the mainstream completely. He seems intent on erasing the idea of cliche, even when using the most familiar phrase. “I’ve always played with this way of contrasting what is readily known and immediate, with that which seems other worldly and distant”, says Charlie. He has a doggedly unique vision, both musical and otherwise. Not to be overly grandiose, but there are some artists who, if they weren’t doing their thing, their thing would simply be missing from human experience, because no one else would ever do it quite that way. Charlie Ringas is like that.
Interestingly, early on, Charlie opted to use what is referred to as the basic set-up, the standard trap kit. What’s especially unusual is that in almost any other way, the Ringas sound is utterly distinctive. He’s one of those rare musicians who have an immediately identifiable touch. Part of it is his open-tuned ringing sound. In that the swing and particularly, the bebop influence is clear. Also the loose earthy roots of the blues, and the origins of rock and roll are there. Overlay a wash of atmospheric psychedelia and you’re starting to get close. But there’s a comfort level that comes across too.
Charlie appears to have been born drumming. It’s like he’s back there starring in his own cooking show. A big open smile, a bit of this, a healthy helping of that. Charlie can play any kind of music. He respects and downright enjoys the idea of genre and the combinations of harmonies, syncopations and timbres that define one versus another. Yet he is also highly unique in his musical vision. As he extended his work as a composer throughout the 90s , he also rethought his role as a percussionist. This led him to design idiosyncratic arrangements of percussion instruments, similar to those found in contemporary ensembles and orchestras, and integrate them into his own groups.
These days he can be found behind the trap kit in one scenario, and one of his percussion assemblages in the next. The funny thing is, it doesn’t make as much difference as you might think. Somehow it still sounds like Charlie.
Alongside playing the drums, Charlie from teenage years studied and practiced an array of musical instruments, that has played an important part in writing for all the players he’s worked with in his own ensembles, or when commissioned by others.
Piano, vibraphone, xylophone, and a host of various percussion instruments, were all part of the routine of musical activities.
The classical guitar has also been an important part of study, but more importantly, in writing for guitar players, since many of his pieces have employed the instrument. He has studied all of the orchestral and jazz band instruments On some of his studio recordings, he has played a variety of keyboards, including pianos, organs, and synthesizers.
Creating and maintaining groups has been at the forefront of Charlie Ringas’ musical enterprise since day one.
He approaches the combining of select musicians as though he were a chemist. Handpicking each for their particular qualities, Charlie has led ensembles of some of Toronto’s most accomplished players in projects that have spanned from contemporary orchestral music to free improvisational jazz. Building relationships, mounting events, and leading bands,
Charlie has been and continues to be, an active contributor to the culture of Canadian new music.
Producing music in concert and recording settings, can be seen as a culmination of all of his pursuits.
For Charlie Ringas, producing is experienced as a constant revealing, discovering and rediscovering. It’s about harnessing the possibilities of endless infinite worlds of sound, nurturing and directing the final experience. Whether it be the production of a live event, a studio recording, or a digital sound collage piece, Charlie’s vision will lead him finally to a place that is uniquely his own.
For the rest of us there’s always something surprising in it, but for him, it feels utterly inevitable. It’s all a part of the same large experiment, the same creating and recreating.