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Microtonal music
by Monroe Golden -
reviewed by

'... the overall effect is somehow stranger than the parts ...'

Alabama Places. © 2007 Monroe Golden

Since music reviews, not to mention political commentaries, require the pretense of omniscience, it is with chagrin that I admit -- this one has me baffled. It does, however, put to rest a concern I've had. To quote, improbably, from the autobiography of John Stuart Mill, 'I was seriously tormented by the thought of the exhaustibility of musical combinations.' Be tormented no more, John Stuart, for the microtonal keyboard of which Monroe Golden avails himself adds many more combinations. As is so often the case however, the answer to one question leads to another, namely, can we exhaust the number of musical combinations to which people would want to listen? The audience for Alabama Places is surely limited.

It's sometimes useful to cite precedents that provide clues to what new music sounds like. In the present case the contrasting musical progress of the two keyboard instruments reminds me of the dual-key sections of Ives; the use of microtones (Ives described them as the notes between the piano keys) suggests Harry Partch; insistent and repeated rhythms and seldom varied dynamics are reminiscent of minimalists such as Steve Reich. But the overall effect is somehow stranger than the parts, even when the retuned instrument plays alone.

Listen -- Iron Road (track 1, 0:00-1:04)
© 2007 Monroe Golden

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Copyright © 13 April 2008 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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