Toychestra

What Leave Behind: Concerto for Electric Guitar and Toy Orchestra

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It was an idea that could have only been born in the countercultural bastion of Berkeley, CA. Composer Dan Plonsey wrote a concerto especially for legendary avant guitarist and Henry Cow/John Zorn veteran Fred Frith and the Oakland six-piece all-toy-instrument ensemble, Toychestra. Yet contrary to expectations, the results of this potentially erroneous meeting are far more palatable than one would initially expect. The first movement, "The Dub," introduces Toychestra's chime-happy rhythmic patterns, which stumble like a baby elephant before Frith's guitar phases in at the end with a single repetitive tone. "Fellini" follows with a similar cling-clang backing and Frith in full improvisational mode. "Groove Rides a Happy Honker" lacks the cohesive strut of the first parts, but Toychestra display their full range of talking robot toys, toy bugles, and a pink zoo train. At only 27 minutes, What Leave Behind never has time to become overly kitschy or tiresome. And the closing "When to Rewind" is primarily the six Toychestra players in choral mode, singing a lullaby mantra with only the slightest of toy and guitar embellishments, making for an experimental piece that never gazes too intently at its own weirdness or technique.

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