Golliwog's Gymnopedia

Rick Fogel

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Golliwog's Gymnopedia Review

by James Manheim

In a way, this little disc of hammer dulcimer music, apparently homemade in the Seattle, WA, area, sets itself a difficult task: it's hard to imagine that it could be anything other than a novelty. Yet dulcimer player and builder Rick Fogel makes it into something more. He takes at face value the fact that there's no reason whatsoever to play classical pieces on his instrument beyond the fact that they, like anything else, can serve as a stimulus to further creative activity. He doesn't attempt to produce "clean" versions of Bach, Satie, Debussy (whose pair of works give the album its title), and Handel (entertainingly misspelled -- guess somebody couldn't get a handle on the editing) but makes them the instrument's own, with all the various overtones and non-harmonic noises the instrument produces left intact. Yet Fogel is not exactly trying to produce a "folk" performance, either. On one Bach minuet he overdubs a bass dulcimer beneath his regular five-octave instrument, with a delightfully eerie effect, and his own compositions are experimental rather than referential to the dulcimer's roots. Only at the end, where he combines Debussy, Led Zeppelin, and Hoagy Carmichael, does he get cute. The music is unusually well recorded. A printed volume featuring transcriptions of these pieces is available from the manufacturer, the Whamdiddle label. Strongly recommended for those interested in the dulcimer or even its various European cousins.

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