Michael Futreal

Michael Futreal
Based in Shreveport, LA
Website: michael.futreal.com

“Musical interpretations of landscape can articulate impressions of places as powerful catalysts to imagination and memory. For me, to be in a landscape is to feel immersed in the deep time of life and Earth as it relates to the brief candle of individual perspective; landscape music can give voice to this relationship, and, at its best, help kindle it.”


Michael Futreal is a composing/improvising instrumental performer and multimedia artist living in Shreveport, Louisiana. Futreal primarily works with the folk-inspired instruments that he builds: chromatic and traditional mountain dulcimers in both electric and acoustic configurations; tonehole flutes built from materials like bamboo and pokeweed. These voices are augmented with a variety of other sounds including guitar, harmonica, ukulele, banjo, loops, samples, and synthesis, with Futreal frequently working to illustrate musical output through various film-making tools such as camera-as-paintbrush and animation.

Michael Futreal's handmade instruments

Michael Futreal’s handmade instruments

Futreal usually performs and records under the moniker Twang Darkly, typically configured as a trio including guitarist/bassist Joel Boultinghouse and drummer Lane Bayliss.

Musically, Futreal is often interested in impressionist and modal techniques that build upon tonic or tonal center environments and soundscapes. Through the shared emphasis on modal lines and pedal point, impressionist music overlaps in an interesting way with the modal vocabulary of the Appalachian dulcimer and other folk traditions. Futreal extends this palette by constructing and working with chromatic and fretless dulcimers that offer the use of synthetic and altered modes beyond the “church modes” afforded by the traditional diatonic mountain dulcimer; he sometimes refers to this approach as “rural space music,” partly as a nod to the adventurous spirit of the iconoclastic, inspiring Sun Ra (1914-1993).

In 2013-14, Futreal used these modal techniques to compose and perform the original score for the feature film Counting for Thunder. The movie has been well received on the film festival circuit and is set for wider distribution in 2016-17. During the same time, Futreal also created the multimedia piece Martian Archaeology, commissioned on grant from the Shreveport Regional Arts Council. The work examined the tension between imagination and discovery through the vehicle of live performance illustrated with short animations created from Futreal’s close-up “micro-landscape” photography of Nevada sandstone.

Futreal was 2015 Artist-in-Residence at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada where he created the source material for Recurring Colors, a suite of original music and connecting short films reflecting the high desert experience. Later in 2015, Futreal was awarded the Music Fellowship Award from the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and tapped as composer-performer for the 2016 dance and performance-art stage production Nick Cave AS IS.

In 2016, Futreal is creating animation and soundscape to enhance the work of sculptor-painter Steve Zihlavsky for The Court of King Skebal, a multimedia installation of sci-fi and fantasy artworks to be housed at the nationally-accredited Meadows Museum of Art at Centenary College of Louisiana.

Futreal holds an M.S. in Applied Sociology from North Carolina State University and previously worked as both college instructor and web developer.

Work Samples

Sentinal (2017) performed by the composer on chromatic dulcimer, guitar, and banjo.

“During experiences of wilderness solitude, I often find myself engaging with elements of the landscape in an imaginative, animistic way. A long unused fence post becomes a wise, wizened sentinel of the trail, a keeper of the slow stories of that place—and a character in my own narrative understanding of my time there.”

Skåne Motion (2017) performed by the composer on chromatic dulcimer, electric gourd, and overtone flute.

“To break free of my limited perspective, I sometimes use photographic tools to consider the landscape at varied temporal and physical scales; in this case, I set up a time-lapse film of snails in a Swedish meadow to discover a deeper sense of the life-ways at the heart of the meadow ecology.”

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