Tom Nunn

Burning Palms: Solo Improvisations of the Octatonic T-Rodimba

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Free improviser and instrument builder Tom Nunn is one third each musician, visual artist, and engineer. Burning Palms is a solo CD of free improvisations on one of his creations: the octatonic T-Rodimba. The basis of the instrument is three groups of eleven rods arranged in V shapes and tuned in an octatonic scale. It has a range of an octave and a fourth. In addition to the rods, Nunn implemented metal strings, nails, aluminum discs, scraping boards, and other devices to expand the sound palette available to the improviser. The instrument can be played with mallets or plucked, scraped, and abused in various ways. To say that it sounds alien would be an understatement. Nunn does a great job illustrating all of his creation's range. Some pieces, like "Time Alone," "Boomtown Shuffle," or "Contemplation" get very close to a one-man gamelan in terms of sonorities and rhythmic patterns. On other tracks such as "Nonsomnambulant Digression" and "Explorentials," the listener feels compelled to go back to the liner notes to make sure there are no electronics involved; the metallic textures get surprisingly close to sound art or electro-acoustics, bringing to mind Mark Applebaum's electro-acoustic scrap sound sculptures (as featured on Mousetrap Music). Nunn is a competent improviser, but the CD can become tiresome in the long run; as wide a range as the instrument has, it does get repetitive after a while. The next step would be to hear what it can bring to small group free improv.

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