Friday, January 21, 2011

Instrumania Part Two: Giant Windharps and Richard Lerman

A friend sent me this link a week or so ago: Harp Spectrum. This is of the same ilk as the “instrumania” (see my 1/11/2011 posting) but on a grand scale. I’ll have to check this out.

The Puget Sound Giant Windharp,
a picture from their website. There's also a "giant space harp".

I haven’t seen (or heard) anything quite like this, but I have heard some vaguely similar windharps on the CD “Within Earreach” by Richard Lerman. This CD features “field recordings” made with home-made micro-mikes that attach to objects (in the manner of pick-ups) and record not only the ambient sound but the response of the amplified object to those sounds. Fascinating, and actually quite relaxing once the listener gets past the “low tech” surface that it seems to have at first.

I’ve also seen Mr. Lerman in concert, some years ago. In one piece, he continued the idea of the mini-mikes, attaching them to sheets and slabs of metal that he suspended like gongs and “played” with a blowtorch. They made otherworldly, reverberant booms and yowls (the latter sounded as if there were tiny, spectral wolves howling within the metal). He also cut up amplified plastic drinking straws with scissors, producing a series of “plinks” that moved up a scale (or a rough overtone series) – each cut was successively shorter so the tone was higher. The whole performance was put onto a series of tape loops that echoed in surround sound. In both pieces, the whimsical visuals were in complete contrast to the apparent solemnity of the music (for the blowtorch piece he wore a hazmat suit and danced around as if trying to avoid radioactivity from the pieces of metal!). A study in contrast.

The idea of the small mikes was one inspiration behind my “Eco Slab Gong” piece. It only worked once and (in that form) is available on my CD “Abstracts” – and an excerpt from the same version is in part of the “StormSound” cycle. See my 6/17/2010 posting for the time it didn’t work, but led to the use of the slab gong as a percussion instrument – and indirectly, to the "StormSound" cycle itself.

(This posting is on 1/21/2011; 123 days until the first performance of the complete "StormSound" Cycle.)

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