The in sound from way out

Now what?! exclaims Middlebury College in announcing a free, five-plus hour concert of improvised electronic music March 19 at McCullough Hall on campus.

What, indeed. If you like experimental music, be there. The program will explore electronically altered traditional instruments, computer-generated sounds, extended techniques, and various ways of using computers and electronics to generate and alter musical sounds.

Guest bassist Sandy Nordahl is one of the founders of Data Stream, an electro-acoustic music trio that combines facets of avant-garde classical, jazz, and rock together with improvisation.

Middlebury Music Department Chairman Peter Hamlin, also a Data Stream member, will be playing keyboards and using various kinds of sound-generating software at the concert. He hopes to have some pieces that respond to physical movement captured by a webcam or videos of water waves.

Joining in the juicing will be electric bassist Kareem Khalifa and guitarist Mark Christensen. Khalifa also teaches philosophy at Middlebury, and Christensen has a rack-full of interesting processing equipment that can sound like a hundred guitarists or not like a guitar at all.

Middlebury faculty member Brian Robison will be playing the theremin. "What's a theremin?" you ask. Janet Maslin of the New York Times has called the theremin "the weirdest of all instruments" and the story of its creator "much more so."

The theremin itself looks like a box with two metal antennas that form a right angle. One antenna controls pitch and the other volume. The instrument is played by moving your hands in the air. You've heard its ethereal, otherworldly sound in films like "The Day the Earth Stood Still".

L on Theremin (1896-1993) invented the theremin in 1919. The story of Theremin's life would rival a James Bond novel, and, in fact, Theremin is the subject of a fascinating 1994 documentary entitled "Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey."

If you just can't wait until concert night to hear some theremin tunes, Brian Robison has a number of videos on YouTube.com including Thelonious Monk's romantic "Ruby, My Dear" and Olivier Messiaen's beautiful "Praise to the Immortality of Jesus."

The Middlebury College concert flows freely 4:30-10 p.m. For information about other electrifying Middlebury College events, go to cat.middlebury.edu/events.

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