Matt plays the Hang and the family of tuned steel instruments created by PANArt in Switzerland as well as the highly expressive and dynamic Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI) wind-synthesizer. He was among the earliest players to explore these instruments and share them with the world. He enhances his solo shows with a looping device that allows him to create lush layers of cinematic and other-worldly sounds, effects and melodies. He was Artist in Residence in both The Everglades and Shenandoah National Park in 2019 and has a history of performing at diverse events and venues, including multiple performances at the TED and TEDx conferences. He also performs with his San Francisco-based ensemble, The Venusians, who are veterans of major festival stages and gala events. Matt has multiple album releases that continue to have great chart placement on traditional radio all the popular streaming sites.
Matt’s father was a jazz pianist and Matt started piano lessons at an early age before switching to trumpet. He became enthralled with the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) after seeing Mike Metheny performing on an early experimental model. Matt got one of the rare instruments, and when the Akai Corporation began marketing it, he was hired to travel around the country demonstrating the progressive instrument.
With the EVI and Matt at the helm, Matt's band "The Venusians" were popular in the San Francisco Bay Area and became favorites of the SF underground and Burning Man community as well as the “digerati” of Silicon Valley with Apple, Google, Yahoo, Oracle and Microsoft hiring them to play gala industry events. When George Lucas hired The Venusians to be the "Cantina Band" for his Star Wars Gala event in San Francisco, it was a game-changer and the calls were pouring in. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark dubbed the band them the ‘Emissaries of Sonic Shamanism’.” To hear samples of Matt playing the EVI, CLICK HERE and listen to the album Matt's Instrumental Favorites, Speechless and Hot Planet.
Because of Venuti’s reputation with the cutting-edge EVI, pop music celebrity Thomas Dolby asked Matt to play at the main TED Conference in his “TED House Band” with Dolby, Michael Manring and Rachelle Garniez in front of the most influential leaders in the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. In addition, Venuti was asked to open the conference with a solo EVI performance, and TED curator Chris Anderson asked Matt to give his own TED talk about the instrument on the closing day. Although he was riding high as the a frontman in this new world of technology and music, Matt was yearning for something new in his musical repertoire. He was experiencing, in his own words, “electronic overload” and he began to search for an acoustic instrument that would best help him express his musical ideas.
The Hang & Gubal
Eventually Matt discovered the Hang, a contemporary instrument introduced at the beginning of this century that resembles a flying saucer. Remarkably this metal-alloyed instrument, which is played with the hands, can be performed both melodically and rhythmically…simultaneously…with a tonal quality never before heard that has the capacity to melt a frosty heart. It’s a magical sound that leaves him and his audiences captivated and enchanted. Explains Venuti, “Hang means ‘hand’ in Swiss-German, where two brilliant artists and instrument-makers, Felix Rohner and Sabina Sharer, created it from their small company named PANArt in Bern. This instrument was not available in stores and very few were brought into the USA. I fatefully managed to acquire two Hangs and recorded a CD combining the Hangs with other instruments. I sent the CD with a note of gratitude to the instrument-makers and they replied by requesting more CDs and inviting me to visit them. It would be the first of yearly trips to Switzerland.
The Hang kept evolving along with the material that it was made of; a patented metal alloy that Felix and Sabina created call Pang. Their Gubal instrument came some years later and was PANArt’s definitive step forward from the Hang. According to Matt, "with the Gubal the sounds of a small ensemble can be accessed from from my lap. It’s also an ideal accompaniment for my vocal compositions, stories and spoken-word poetry". PANArt continued to develop more instruments; most notably the Gudu, the Godo and the Hang Gu. Matt adds, "These instruments have offered me a unique expression that has deepened my connection to music and to sound itself.” To hear Matt play the Hang, CLICK HERE and listen to tracks from the Hang Soul or Hang Therapy albums, as well as all the album choices (excluding Hot Planet, which was released before the Hangs were available). There are also dozens of videos that feature Matt playing the Hang...CLICK HERE for some examples.
A New Journey
Matt remembers when he met Yolanda Bain, a yoga teacher. “She was standing on her head at the beach on a brisk day in late November. She became my wife and her fate would influence my life in unimaginable ways. Of all the twists and turns in my life, nothing would have as profound an impact as Yolanda’s death at the end of our 20th year together. I felt lost and disconnected from life as I knew it. I would escape to nature with the Hang instruments, visiting the redwoods, the canyons, the ocean, the desert…anywhere that offered a peaceful environment where I could find strength in nature. In time my heart started to heal, but with a different level of maturity that felt more enduring. I began to develop musical motifs that came from these visits to nature’s sanctuaries, and they later evolved into compositions. I was writing lyrics that reflected the delicate passage of life and the human need to turn to the heart for solace. I soon realized this wasn’t simply my journey, but the journey of all humans in the rhythm of life.