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.

3/14/16: Monday Funday Dance Party!

These are the Toelegu Pan Pipers from Toelegu Village, Havulei District, Isabel Province, the Solomon Islands.

When I talk about “Monday Funday Dance Party,” I’m serious about the dancing. If you’re in a place where you can cut a rug a little bit, you’ll just feel wonderful. And I say this with full knowledge that I am a terrible dancer.

I’m very impressed that these guys can play and dance at the same time. The dances themselves are not very difficult – even I could do that, after some practice. Of course, if I tried to play the pan flute at the same time, I’d just fall down. That’s one too many things for my brain to handle.

Check out the lower-pitched instruments and how they are being played, with those paddle things. I’ve seen Blue Man Group do something almost identical, but with PVC pipes (you’ll see it at about 1:30 in this video):

And Harry Partch’s Instrumentarium features instruments that also used pitched bamboo – the bamboo marimba and spoils of war come to mind.

http://www.harrypartch.com/#!instruments/csqv

You could make your own similar instruments, if you have access to PVC pipe and something to cut them to pitch (kids, and many adults, don’t try this. Too many opportunities to get hurt). And maybe some repurposed flip-flops for the paddles?

It should definitely be easy to make those cool shakers they’re wearing on their ankles. And so much fun while you’re dancing.

Featured Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.