They Might Be Giants Gain a New Perspective with Their Swing-Lens

Spinner, November 10, 2009
by John Linnell

There are many occasions when life on the road with our band (the five main lads and several adjunct musicians that variously form They Might Be Giants) needs to be viewed as a whole, embraced as it were with both arms, swallowed in one gulp. To get the full picture, one normally has to take so many steps backward that there is a very real danger of falling off the stage or crashing into some obstacle behind you. Another way to take it all in is to get multiple views and stitch them together to make a crazy quilt. Most appealingly, you can take a picture of everything at once with a swing-lens, which turns like a lighthouse glass to sweep across the field of vision and produces a deliciously long image without any edge distortion. Enter the Horizon, an inexpensive swing-lens camera invented by the Russians in the 1960s and still being produced.

Need for such a wide perspective arose recently when the band hired not one, but two euphonium players in addition to a baritone saxophonist to execute a low-horn-heavy track called 'Seven' from our [cough, Grammy award-winning, cough] children's album 'Here Comes the 123s.' Left to right we see Dan Miller (guitar, peeking out from behind euphonium #1), Dan Levine holding euphonium #1, John Flansburgh (guitar, vocals), Stan Harrison (baritone sax), Marty Beller (drums) and the euphoric Kurt Ramm on euphonium #2.

Another gig that called for the broadest possible view was one in which John Flansburgh required guitar playing assistance from some of the throngs of kids who came to see us in Kansas City. Budding guitar distortion enthusiasts are shown here to extend beyond the curvature of the earth.

Next week: Stereo realism