Kraig Grady: Anaphoria
Kraig Grady is a composer, musician, and shadow puppeteer with a peculiar style. Influenced by the obscure traditions of the island of Anaphoria, his music has a rare ethereal quality that is often mesmerizing.
Writer:  omniphiliac Feb 20 09

Interview conducted and written by Seth Harris.

Kraig Grady is a composer, musician, and shadow puppeteer with a peculiar style. Influenced by the obscure traditions of the island of Anaphoria, his music has a rare ethereal quality that is often mesmerizing. He maintains and updates the website for the North American Anaphorian Embassy (, which is also a non-profit organization to promote music in alternative musical tunings. Originally from Los Angeles, he recently moved to Australia and established the Austronesian Outpost of Anaphoria.

Kraig has long utilized alternate musical tunings (or "mesotonal music" as he calls it) and instruments he built himself to create his unusual sonic atmospheres. Though lacking formal academic credentials, he has nevertheless become the world's foremost scholar of Anaphorian culture, and is a respected member of the alternate tuning community. His personality is clearly "out there" from the first time you meet him, making him an unlikely candidate for the APA's coveted "Most Normal Person of the Year" award, which he has not yet received. Instead, he was included in Buzz magazine's list of the 100 coolest people in L.A.

Recently I caught up with him for an interview about some of the ins and outs of what he does. Read on to find out more about this character and what makes him tick:

Q: So, can you talk a little about your history with Anaphoria? How did you become involved?

A: My initial involvement was my participation at a concert at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California.  This was 1996 and soon afterwards due to the appeal I had to this culture did I begin to investigate in more depth. That music was intimately tied to the myths that gave forth the music and vise versa, lead me to investigate this direction more.

Q: I've noticed that music and shadow puppets seem to be the most prominent forms of Anaphorian culture we're being exposed to. Why would you say that is?

A: This probably has more to do with my own interest as well as my own workload in what I am able to put forth. A few attempts have been made to include others, whose specialized interest would cover this but being such a large investment of time, they have been deterred. The Artist Jeff Kies was been quite involved in presenting some paintings that have provided the artwork to many of the recordings, and early on produced murals on banners of cloth that where used behind many of the performances of this music. My own interest in Shadow Theater comes out of my earlier involvement in Silent film with cinematographer, Keith Barefoot. For 10 years we produced a number of rear projection film/live music presentations. Shadow theater allowed a way to explore the roots of this medium and here was the opportunity to do so.

My own interest in Shadow Theater comes out of my earlier involvement in Silent film with cinematographer, Keith Barefoot.

Q: What would you say are the main functions or aims of Anaphorian music and shadow theatre?

A: Besides its ritualistic function as a method of tuning into the energies we are all surrounded by, there is just that natural function to let music out of the body. Birds sing and now they know it is not just mating, communication. There is some pure enjoyment or natural inclination to make sound. It is the way we should approach music. Unfortunately we now ‘consume’ music instead of making it. We need more community ventures to make it an activity that everyone can take part in.

Q: The Anaphorian embassy talks about the extreme ethnic diversity of the Anaphorian Island. Has there been any concern that you are representing a narrow sector of the overall culture? Do any Anaphorian groups seem to feel underrepresented?

A: I don't think it is possible for me to represent the Anaphorian culture fully. I have presented what I can and will continue to do so. Those that have not been represented are not concerned with any external status. The concept is meaningless to them. They know who they are.

Q: With Anaphoria's varied ethnic backgrounds, what would you say brings them together? That is, what things do the Anaphorian people have in common?

A: It is an island of exiles; here their ‘otherness ‘ is an asset.

Q: I've noticed that those handfuls of Western scholars who write about Anaphoria often deny its existence (e.g.: Skutch and Wellman, 1996), sometimes "generously" referring to it as a "metaphorical geographical locale", among other denunciatory epithets. Where would you say this type of denial stems?

A: Each person brings their own belief systems to any perceptions or representations of reality. One should take into consideration what these comments say about the speaker. There are many who live under the myths of analysis as well as myths of objectivity.

It is an island of exiles; here their ‘otherness ‘ is an asset.

Q: Along similar lines: It is well known that an image of the island of Anaphoria was banned from Google Earth circa 2006. Do you feel that this stems from an unwillingness to accept things which go against orthodox understanding (similar to the initial derision aroused by the discovery of Troy)? Or does this seem to be more a matter of deliberate policy?

A: They are forced to accept the myths of their culture in order to pay service to it. The problem lies much deeper than any conspiracy. Such things happen without much thought.

Q: You seem to have done quite a lot of research, yet it still seems that there's something of "you" in what is being put forth. How much of your work is directly derived from Anaphorian culture?

A: I think this is a fair and accurate implication that my work stems from the Anaphorian culture as opposed to the other way around. James Hillman along similar lines in general defined archetypal psychology as accepting that the mind is in the imagination and not the other way around. Not that Anaphoria is psychological or is in the same way Australia and The United States is. All borders are man made constructs and wouldn't exist without them.

Q: I understand that you do a lot of work with alternate tuning systems. Can you explain to our readers roughly what this entails?

A: Europe adopted a tuning system that involves the compromise of altering the natural harmonics in favor of having 12 equal steps between an octave, or between say a C and a higher C. This enabled music to progress quite far, but in a limited way that we appear to have maybe exhausted. Other cultures around the world have had their own tunings they in turn have developed. This also made their music develop in a unique way we are just beginning to appreciate beyond the superficial layers we have. So in order to explore certain types of resonances we need specific intervals and notes to do so. Still there are scales no one has used and these in turn also allow new ways of thinking and experiencing. While the term Microtonal is used often, I have lately preferred the term Mesotonal. The first means smaller tone while the latter means middle tone. Now not all the intervals we may choose to use are smaller than the western scale, some are just in-between what we find on the piano or probably more importantly, what we find on the guitar. So I prefer Mesotonal. Besides just new subtle variations of melodic and harmonic colors, it also allows us to explore new structures implied by the nature of these intervals.

Q: As I understand it, the alternate tunings and self-made instruments you use are largely inspired by Western innovators (notably Harry Partch). Where is the crossover with Anaphorian culture, and who would you say are your biggest influences in that regard?

A: We tend to look at music evolving out of technological and/or evolutionary moves. The real fact is that music has progressed just as much by encounters with geographically different music. Music expands in geographical space as much as in time periods.

Both Harry Partch and later Lou Harrison were music makers that looked wider around them and were inspired by what they heard. I believe both of them could be said to have found elements of music that had been neglected or left behind in the name of progress. Both might be considered Greek Revivalist both drawing upon their use of ratios to determine intervals. And I guess this is important to realize they did not disregard their own culture, but they felt no qualms by bypassing 2000 years to get to something in it that would serve as a bridge and link to others in away we need to reach. 

Music expands in geographical space as much as in time periods.

Q: Now that we've talked a bit about alternate tunings, maybe we should talk about custom-made instruments... How did you get into making your own instruments? When you make a new instrument, is it mostly about applying a new tuning or is there something more to it?

A: When I started in 1975, one could not do alternative tunings with electronics and what could be done required money I didn’t have. I was already working with found objects and the building of instruments with specific tunings became a quantum leap in development. The more you build the more you realize how much has already been done and also how much history is in back of all the ones we find ourselves with. In the last few years this has lead me to modifying existing ones more than starting from scratch. Also I have been more concerned with the idea of making ensembles or “orchestras’. That is a collection of instruments that work together as opposed to isolated units.

Q: I've heard a few wild rumors about the structure of a piece you are currently working on, specifically that it has a time signature in the triple-digits. Would you care to talk a little bit about this piece and where it's coming from?

A: The meter is 108 and a bar takes a little over a minute to come around. 108 an important Buddhist number but meters this long are not uncommon elsewhere in the world. Such patterns are the main unifying device we find in much music in the Mideast. They in turn have influenced Indian music in its incorporations of talas, rhythmic patterns of various lengths. In the Mideast we find patterns up to 256 or even 512 which also runs the whole development of the music. My interest in these long meters is that urban life promotes such short-term thinking and it is my way to possibly help people including myself experience longer periods of time.  Music with long sustain does this also, but limits what one can do in others, so it is something to add to that language. Sustain enables us to also explore long-term emotions which we dont always acknowledge. But I have grown into missing the great variety that music once had and sought a constant to inform all the changes. It was Ezra Pound who said that a work of art needs a constant and a variable. Maybe not, but it is a useful line of thought I find when working. This piece Gendhing Canright is finally done, except for making the parts. A midi version is up on my site that I have been adding to a lot lately.

It was Ezra Pound who said that a work of art needs a constant and a variable

Q: You mentioned that 108 is an important Buddhist number, and the "Gending Boehme" is another "newer style" piece which has some relationship with Western alchemy, according to information provided by the embassy. What are your thoughts on the nature of these correspondences? Universal archetypes? Morphic fields? Collective unconscious?

A: Personally Jung was a very big influence upon me. Reading him was my own form of psychotherapy when I was younger. I highly recommend his books for that. Often I would be dreaming ahead of his books. I would dream something and it would occur in the next few pages of the book as I kept reading. Sheldrake’s (Morphogenetic Fields) work, which implies that either matter, especially organic matter can retain memory and experience through the collective body of a species, possibly trans species, makes sense to me. Erwin Schrödinger proposed that DNA was possibly an antenna. That it is more tuned to our ancestors would still make it look like a code. It is the only thing explains any evolutionary progress. Cause it is not just having say new organs, one has to also have the knowledge on how to use them and apply them. Possibly this desire is a preliminary necessity. Along with John Bells interconnectiveness theory, where action but not information can happen simultaneously despite great distance, matter is probably far more mysterious than we realize. It is these mechanical models that bias away from what its real nature must be.

Q: Will we be seeing any live performances from you soon?

A: When things come up, I have been doing solo work, but am figuring out just how my larger works can be done and what needs to change. These things have always developed based on the people I was working with so I need to reform what I have to encompass the new and unforeseen talent I am now surrounded with.

Q: You were at one point selected by Buzz magazine as one of the 100 coolest people in LA. ARE YOU REALLY THAT COOL?

A: Only for the one person who chose me for it that year. Life is strange and that one is never acknowledged for what one does half the time and what little recognition comes in such a way. I look at it as making up for what I am and have done elsewhere. It is funny though yet I enjoyed the food and the party they invited us to. They were good and cool people themselves.

Q: Anything else you'd like to say before we go?

A: Thanks for the opportunity!

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