The mind-bending sound TC achieved on the track involved a number of techniques he’d learned in avant-garde music circles, including ‘prepared piano,’ in which foreign objects are placed inside the piano to alter the instrument’s sound, usually to percussive effect. John Cage had been writing prepared piano pieces since the ’40s, and both TC and Phil had dabbled in it in their pre-Dead days, but it was still a radical move for a rock and roll band.
Of his piano preparations for Anthem, TC says, “The most striking was when I took a gyroscope, gave it a strong pull, and put it against the amplified sounding board. It’s kind of a chainsaw sound. One of my other favorite effects was obtained by using coins. At that time I used dimes. Since then I’ve been to Holland and picked up Dutch dimes, which are even better. Then there’s a sound like woodblocks that comes from combs stuck on the piano’s higher strings. Another I liked was clothespins on the lowest strings, played either with the keys or on a string directly.’ TC’s section of the piece also utilized an electronic tape that he had made at Henri Posseur’s electronic music studio in Brussels during the summer of 1962. The primary instrument he used for that was a ring modulator. The tape was assembled from dozens of little fragments of sound cut and spliced together.
“The idea was that this chaos would ensue from ‘The Other One,”‘ TC explains. “The final part was an overlay of several live performances, whence it gets that incredible depth; it’s a remarkable effect. So they wanted to take that up and swirl it into an explosion, and out of the ashes of that would stealthily enter the warm, misty waves of ‘New Potato Caboose.'” -Blair Jackson (The Golden Road)
Tom Constanten aka T.C. a unique keyboardist with the GD from 1968 to 1970, is still touring today.
Photo: Herb Greene