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The Bright River 

Tim Barsky keeps pushing the limits of what he can accomplish onstage as a hip-hop flutist

Wednesday, Mar 17 2004
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Tim Barsky keeps pushing the limits of what he can accomplish onstage as a hip-hop flutist. A talent for playing not just the flute but also multiple lines of beat-box rhythm through the same chest and mouth may sound a bit, um, self-limiting, because how many classical-music aficionados respond to human beat-boxing, and how many rap fans want to hear a flute? But Barsky belongs to a class by himself. He's not just a musician but a storyteller, who weaves myth-based political tales around his original music. (Fans of Joseph Campbell shouldn't miss him; people who loathe Joseph Campbell should probably keep away.) The Bright River is about Quick the Fixer descending to the City of the Dead in search of a Berkeley girl named Calliope, who commits suicide after her soldier boyfriend gets killed in Iraq. Barsky tells the story in phases, with generous interruptions of music by Jess Ivry (on cello), Shree Shyam (bass, marimba, electronic effects), and the incredible Andrew Chaikin, who can beat-box like a machine and work in vivid vocal sound effects, too (gunfire, bombs, flapping birds). Barsky has been known to overdo the myth material and a keening, rabbinical style of singing (to express joy or grief), but here he's careful enough with both ingredients to let The Bright River flow on its own.

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