Daan Warnies

The Busy Drone

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The Busy Drone is an organ with a unique history in Belgium. Built in the first quarter century. After a fairly illustrious run as a "dance organ" like many found in cafes and dancehalls throughout Holland, it had fallen into disuse; it had been abandoned. Found in the mid-'60s it was discovered in an old organ factory, and was purchased and restored by a museum and put to regular use again. Its 92 keys and 601 pipes cover four registers and six octaves along with built-in percussion. Contemporary composers have been encouraged to write music specifically for this mechanical organ. A mechanical organ, like a player piano, plays itself, but someone has to work the controls. What transpired here was over two sessions Daan Warnies and Arend van der Bijl worked the organ. All this would be for naught were it not for the amazing music contributed to the recording by composers as illustrious as Willem Breuker, Misha Mengelberg, Louis Andriessen, Bo van de Graaf, and others. The works by Andriessen, Mengelberg, and Breuker are the most lighthearted, keeping the organ's history as a dance instrument at the forefront of their compositions. Their contributions are humorous, full of light and deft shifts in genre, rhythm, and harmony -- Breuker, who has two works here, composes with American populist composers in mind like Aaron Copland and George Gershwin, as well as the wildly pompous Brit, Elgar. Hermann Kretschmar, Guus Janssen, and Nico Schuyt seem to explore the rich tonal variations on the instrument with exercises that move octaves around inside one another for various purposes. Other works are interesting but far from compelling, and it becomes clear that these writers' curiosities were piques and little more; it's too bad, too, because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's a small complaint, in that this disc, while it has some academic moments, is full of delight and surprise as well as is a chance to hear some of contemporary music's most important voices stretched to new limits.

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