The Apprehension Engine

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Korven … with local Guelph artists Matt Brubeck, Gary Diggins, Daniel Fischlin, Lewis Melville, and Joe Sorbara, played an … improvised set that was transcendent and tightly captured the audience’s attention.
––Zoey Ross, GuelphToday

Tony Duggan-Smith is an idea machine––meaning he comes up with tons of brilliant ideas faster than they can possibly be implemented.

If there’s a creative idea in the ether of a conversation, Tony will notice it and put words to it. And when most people see a problem or an obstacle, Tony sees light at the end of the tunnel and several creative solutions to the problem.

So it’s no surprise he would create an instrument that forces musicians to come up with new musical ideas and constructs. The Apprehension Engine is a fluid transitioning instrument that forces the musician playing it to be creative. There is no map, no script - no way musical notes can be written for it. Thereby forcing whoever’s playing it to be extremely in-the-moment.

This creates a very raw improvisatory energy ... that demands that the listener also be present.

As a listener, you never know what sound is going to come out of it. Tony is the kind of guy you want to be shipwrecked on a desert island with because he would find a way to turn the one palm tree into a boat that would take you home.

And once you were home he would turn the boat into a musical instrument.

––Linda Manzer, Luthier

I have been listening to Tony Duggan-Smith's innovative and original music and musicianship for many years starting with the eclectic and unique band the Pukka Orchestra, which he co-founded in the 1980s. The Pukkas were one of the cult darlings of the Queen Street music scene at that time––along with Jane Siberry, the Parachute Club, Handsome Ned, Blue Rodeo, the Sharks, Rheostatics and others that came out of it––they created a devoted almost cult-like following.

After signing Tony and his two Pukka cohorts to a publishing deal with ATV Music (the Beatles publisher) in 1983 and securing them a record deal to release their brilliant and already sought after recorded work, they went on to achieve broad national success before the health of their Scottish lead singer forced their retirement as a group. Way too early!

Tony has continued to create over all the years since––in multiple media––and from time to time I have caught up with his new works––always different, always challenging and always original.

I was fortunate to again see, hear and experience his work as a master guitar builder last year at the Group of Seven Guitar Project at the McMichael Collection in Toronto, in which a group of 7 guitar master builders–Tony being one of them––honoured the Group of 7 painters by building some unique instruments for some of Canada's guitar greats to play beneath and beside the canvasses of our greatest group of painters.

I have no doubt we will be witnessing the birth of another one-of-a-kind instrument with the introduction of Tony and Mark Korven's Apprehension Engine and the music it generates.

Remember when we first heard the Synclavier, the Mellotron, the Moog, Theremins and others? I expect nothing less from the creative, renaissance-man mind of Tony Duggan-Smith.

––Frank Davies, Founder of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame / 

Spawned by the imagination of Canadian composer Mark Korven and a trail of musical exploration going back over a thousand years, the APPREHENSION ENGINE was “birthed” in 2016 by instrument maker and musician Tony Duggan-Smith—the result of a two-week  lockdown in a small Toronto workshop following the mantra of ‘what if’ and ‘why not.’

This recording captures highlights from the three sets that were played by the SILENCE COLLECTIVE, a group of experienced improvisers who, meeting for the first time with Mark Korven, and completely unrehearsed, improvised the music heard here featuring an unprecedented new Canadian-made instrument that has received international acclaim.

The performers sat facing the audience and in front of a screen playing an experimental film created by Guelph musician and multimedia artist Jeff Bird. The film was based entirely on images taken by Duggan-Smith of his 92-year-old mother before she died, a living memory of a remarkable woman that the musicians were invited to respond to as an inspiration for the evening’s improvisations.

Download the CD booklet.

Silence Collective

Matt BRUBECK (cello); Gary DIGGINS (trumpet, santoor, conch, water wheel, voice, didgeridoo); Daniel FISCHLIN (guitar [by Tony Duggan-Smith], flutes, monotron); Mark KORVEN (Apprehension Engine); Lewis MELVILLE (pedal steel, banjo); Joe SORBARA (percussion)

Production Information

Produced by: Tony Duggan-Smith, Daniel Fischlin, Lewis Melville
Recording Engineer: Lewis Melville
Mastering: Philip Shaw Bova
Cover Art, Design, Graphics: Lucas Duggan-Smith, Joan Duggan-Smith
Photos: Tony Duggan-Smith, Mark Korven, Daniel Ap
Film of Joan Duggan-Smith (based on Tony Duggan-Smith stills): Jeff Bird