4/14/17: Dean Drummond

I’m a day late, but then again I usually am. Dean Drummond died four years ago, on April 13, 2013, and I will not forgive him for it.

Dean was a fantastic composer, who worked with microtonal music. His ensemble, Newband, used the Harry Partch Instrumentarium to create wild, complex music. He invented the zoomoozophone.

I studied with Dean while I was working towards my masters degree at Montclair State University. He was a really tough teacher, with a very direct approach to both teaching and interacting with his students. He pushed me really hard in a good way – thanks to him, I can articulate why I write what I do, which helps me to improve my work.

I wrote a few pieces using the Partch Instrumentarium, and he made me conduct them. I hate conducting. But there you go. That’s Dean.

The years 2008 – 2012 were tough ones for me, and I really only communicated with Dean occasionally, when I wanted to use the Instrumentarium. Then in 2013, I saw the post on Facebook. He died. Way too young, from an awful cancer.

The Partch Instrumentarium continues to be in good hands, and is now located at the University of Washington. I assume Dean is now working on ever more complex and beautiful music over on the Other Side.

Here’s one of his works, “Congressional Record” (using actual government records for vocal text):

 

And here’s one that I wrote. I never thought I could take composing in this direction, and am so grateful for the opportunity to do so. RIP Dean; the world is less fun without you.

October 21, 2015

I found this picture of an instrument I’ve never seen before; the “Autophone Organette.”

Autophone Organette Met Museum

I figured I’d see if I could find one in action:

And the punch card thingy made me think of the composer Conlon Nancarrow.

Nancarrow wrote a lot of music that was so technically complex, he couldn’t find anyone who could play it.

So if he ever wanted to hear what his music sounded like, he had to come up with a better solution. Today we’d just multitrack it. But back in the late 30’s, the answer was player piano. Nancarrow punched out his music onto rolls of paper, one note at a time (and that’s a LOT of notes), just so he could hear it back.

Eventually, musicians came on the scene who had the technical chops to play his stuff, and his music is now performed live.

I really like his work, and I think folks who aren’t that familiar with this kind of music might also get into it. Even though it can sound like jazz in a blender, there’s enough relatable content there to keep you involved.

Conlon Nancarrow Fun Fact: I had lunch with Nancarrow and his wife many years ago. They were very nice people.

My ears get tired if I listen to challenging music for too long, so here’s something that should ground us.

It’s the absolute stillness of living in the now.