The NewBand

Harry Partch and Dean Drummond

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After releasing the prize-winning and essential Enclosure series on Harry Partch, the label Innova continued to document the work of this most interesting figure in American contemporary music and of his followers. Dean Drummond, one of his disciples, created the ensemble Newband in 1977, three years after Partch's death, to continue exploring microtonality. In these recordings from 1997 and 1999, Newband perform works by both composers. "Eleven Intrusions" is a suite of short "speech music" by Partch. Poems by Ella Young, Willard Motley, George Leite, and Ungaretti are half-spoken/half-sung over music that would fit the mold of art song if it weren't for the microtonal instruments and the composer's unique sound world. Not among the man's best music, it resembles "Ten Li Po Lyrics," "Barstow," and "Dark Brother," the second Partch work of this CD. Drummond's "Before the Last Laugh" and "Congressional Record" pursue a similar musical vision and make use of the master's instruments (the chromelodeon, the kithara, etc.), along with his own zoomoozophone, keeping the focus on polyrhythms, just intonation, and speech singing. Worth a special note is "Congressional Record," a satirical piece based on excerpts from the United States Congressional Records that elevates together a speech by Jesse Helms in favor of abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts, the bill that came from it, Kenneth Star's famous Independent Counsel Report about President Bill Clinton's sexual indiscretions, and a speech on the Plumbing Standards Improvement Act. The level of political satire is strongly reminiscent of "Porn Wars" and "Welcome to the United States," two works by Frank Zappa. Bass baritone Robert Osborne sings all pieces with trio, but his performance in the last one is simply irresistible.

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