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Wednesday, Feb 10 1999
Experimental Musical Instruments
Since 1985, Bart Hopkin has made musical weirdness his passion, tracking down a world full of people for whom standard-issue guitars, pianos, and drums are the start -- but not the end -- of musicmaking. He's put his name on the quarterly publication Experimental Musical Instruments (which publishes its final issue in June), and compiled two captivating CDs full of the head-spinning beauty and clamor of oddball musical creations: 1996's Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones, along with last year's follow-up Orbitones, Spoon Harps & Bellowphones (both Ellipsis Arts), presents living legends of instrumenteering like Robert Moog and Don Buchla, as well as modern approaches from the likes of Stomp and Aphex Twin.

For the first of two "Experimental Musical Instruments" showcases at Clarion (the second is March 12), Hopkin MC's a bill including Alan Tower playing various types of "huacas," a resonant, multichambered flute; Peter Whitehead performing on a variety of string creations including the "lawn lyre" and "spoon harp"; and San Franciscan Tom Nunn playing his infamous "bug," a table with an arrangement of "antennae," which when struck or bowed result in an ambient sound -- soothing in its own way, yet also oddly jarring in its unfamiliarity. But when you're in Hopkin's world, unfamiliarity's the whole point.

-- Mark Athitakis

Alan Tower, Peter Whitehead, and Tom Nunn perform "Experimental Musical Instruments" Friday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m. at the Clarion Music Center, 816 Sacramento (at Grant), S.F. Tickets are $10; call 391-1317.

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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