Thursday 19 April 2012

The Great Animal Orchestra

I like diversity in music and I also enjoy writing about it when I can take one or two completely diverse musical experiences or ideas and then attempt to weld them into something interesting and coherent. This blog's content is inspired by 1. A hobo wandering around the USA in the 1930s  2. A sound recordist of environmental sounds around the world and 3. A rock guitarist's collaboration with a contemporary composer. What brought these themes together was a walk in the spring of the North Yorkshire moors. I took an unscheduled break in early April and visited my sister and her husband who live in Middlesbrough, my home town. When young, I couldn't wait to get away from the place, now I enjoy all of my return visits. My brother-in-law is a keen walker and we always take time out for exploring. When I walk I can chatter, listen to the sounds around me and allow my thoughts to sort themselves out.

The said hobo is - or was - Harry Partch, a renegade musician who sought inspiration for his music from everything he heard around him. What he heard and wanted to reproduce couldn't be done on classical orchestral instruments so he set himself the task of inventing and building the instruments on which to play his music. I received for review a CD set called Bitter Music (Bridge) and expected this to be a recording of some of Partch's music. However, it turned out not to be this but was a spoken recording of his diaries as he bummed his way round America, hitching lifts and dossing with the other vagrants. The composer's narrative was illustrated with musical incidents and brief slices of incidental music scored to quotes from fellow travellers.