Our first episode of 2017 takes us on a journey through instruments of the past and present, both recognizable and unusual, and sheds light on just what could be coming in the future.
Before we rang in the new year, my social media was densely populated with 'top 10' of 2016 lists. Whether it was best (or worst) movies, extreme sports feats, or the quintessential top 10 'fails' of whatever variety; they were pretty entertaining, I must admit.
So, in my infinite musical curiosity, I searched for a top 10 strangest instruments list. And, boy howdy, was I rewarded.
Levitation artist and youtube sensation Special Head put a pretty wicked list together in September of 2015. Check it out.
Now, before all these people were around, Harry Partch was building his own orchestras of instruments more than half a century ago. The German new music collective, Ensemble Musikfabrik,walk us through their reconstruction of Partch's largest ensemble of inventions on their way to their complete staging of his epic work: Delusion of the Fury (1964-9).
We'll round out today's adventure with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in another perfectly charming and educational Young People's Concert from March of 1960. Titled Unusual Instruments of the Present, Past, and Future, Maestro Bernstein introduces us to the strange and magical compositional devices that can make the same orchestra that plays Mozart and Beethoven sound like a Brazilian backcountry milk train in a work by Heitor Villa Lobos. Also included in the program are blasts from the past like shawms, cornetts, sackbuts, recorders, baroque strings, and harpsichord from New York Pro Musica. There's also a groundbreaking work Bernstein refers to as "WAY out" and "pretty scary" from composers Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky for Orchestra and Tape Recorder (not to mention an epic kazoo concerto with legendary Armenian-American soprano Anita Darian as soloist). Totally worth the watch.
Strange? Yes. Unusual? Yes.
Join us every Wednesday for fresh episodes of Mid-week Musicology here, on Classic107.com!