Album: just 3 organs
Author: John Cavanagh
Publication: Foxy Digitalis
Date: 4/16/2008

The front cover looks a little like a catalogue for 1970s Yamaha organs, with three of their model 205D instruments pictures as a symmetrical trio… no, wait a minute, after a double-take on that photo, I see it’s one and a half organs shown in mirror image!

Symmetries in multiples of three seem an important part of the thought processes of Frank Rothkamm, as the piece is 33 minutes and 33 seconds long and involves micro-tonal tuning adjustments to each instrument, placing them 33 cents apart.

The concept of threes goes considerably further along these lines and the playful mind of Mr. Rothkamm is clearly reflected in the music too. His first Yamaha organ was, apparently, found in a Hollywood thrift store in 2002 and he’s worked on “Just 3 Organs” for about 5 years since then. One could be forgiven for thinking that he might be a bit like Organ Morgan in Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, playing these instruments morning, noon and night, but his other artistic endeavours range from installation pieces and web design to creating soundtrack material used for animations in Star Wars and working on a system whereby a computer would create music based on an artist drawing a picture in realtime, a development of Iannis Xenakis’ 1950s conception UPIC.

The music explores a rich tonal and rhythmic landscape, with nods to classical styles, cinematic music and more contemporary out there-ness. At times it’s as though Isao Tomita dropped into a “Saucerful of Secrets” Pink Floyd session and the artist who titles the opening section of a work like this “Kris Kristofferson of the Avent-Garde” is clearly not a po-faced beard stroker!

The slightly out of tune nature of this will, no doubt, drive some listeners to distraction, but the way the unsettling nature of these pitch differences resolve against one another is very skillfully achieved and with such an unusual idea, I’m pleased to say the piece makes an enjoyable listen. 7/10

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