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Monday April 21, 2014
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Frank Pahl

 

continued

Pahl sat at a piano keyboard but mostly played a battery of other instruments that surrounded him. The printed program sheet thanked yard sales and flea markets, because that's where most of them came from. There were zithers, toy keyboards, tinkling, shimmering pieces of metal being used as percussion instruments of various kinds, many of them somehow rigged up to run automatically. One of the keyboards was sounded by several rotating wheels that produced slowly changing chords and seemed to suspend the normal passage of time. Pahl also played a Melodica, blowing into it through a tube, and from time to time he pulled out a euphonium (a close relative of the tuba). It was a one-man sound world to rival that of America's greatest musical individualist, Harry Partch.

When Pahl set the music in motion with a waltz or another simple tune and was joined by the other players — an electric guitarist, a bassist who mostly played with a bow, and a keyboardist on an early synthesizer of the sort that musicians are starting to collect — a shimmering improvisatory soundscape began to form. The music grew more intense as unusual sounds were added, but it was never loud. When forceful elements — a vaguely 1970s dance beat, a few blasts on Pahl's euphonium — did occasionally appear, they were so unexpected that the audience laughed.

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