Thursday, July 8, 2010

Unwieldy instruments in the news

John Adams looks into the works of the bandoneón, the accordion cousin played by Astor Piazzolla and other Argentine tango masters: "[I]t has a single push-button for each pitch—33 for the left hand and 38 for the right, a total of 71 buttons. The player cannot see these buttons while playing, and their physical arrangement is a confusing matrix that, at least on first encounter, seems to defy logic. . . . [T]he buttons change pitch depending on whether the bellows are being opened or closed. AND the left hand is tuned to F while the right hand is tuned to G. Got it? It’s enough to make you wonder if all those military coups in Argentina weren’t carried out by frustrated bandoneón players who’d gone postal trying to figure out the instrument."

Plus, it weighs 22 pounds:

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In The Washington Post, Anne Midgette samples the American Guild of Organists' convention in DC this week:

The organ, Midgette observes, is "big, temperamental, idiosyncratic. Its performers play with feet and hands, balanced like bugs on a narrow seat before multiple keyboards, one above the other. And those performers have to adapt to the instrument. One organ may have three manuals (or keyboards), another five, and each has its own panoply of stops – that is, buttons on the console that enable a player to choose a range of sounds to blend in different parts of the piece."

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Joseph Bertolozzi, who "hammered on I-beams and guardrails, whacked thick cables, sent steel pellets down the inside of a bridge tower" of the Roosevelt Bridge near Poughkeepsie, NY, for his composition "Bridge Music," now proposes a similar project with the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The proposal is "being taken seriously" by Paris authorities, The New York Times reports:

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And a belated link to Don Harrison’s Style Weekly profile of Larry Robinson, maestro of what may be Richmond’s largest musical instrument, certainly its most highly elevated: the Carillon in Byrd Park: