excerpt from the LA Times:
April 29, 2003
Microtonal guitarists open ears
By Josef Woodard, Special to The Times
The normally underground world of microtonal music goes public for the next month courtesy of the annual MicroFest, launched Sunday at Venice’s Electric Lodge with a program called “MicroGuitars.”
Microtonality is all about the pursuit of music created by deviating from the prevailing Western tuning of 12 notes to the octave. Guitar is particularly malleable, given the flexible tuning keys and possibilities of customizing the fretboard.
Rod Poole, a British avant-folk-jazzer, played a steel-string acoustic guitar with a super-sized order of tightly spaced frets. Mixing traditional pure roots and fifths with stowaway microtones, Poole played an improvised suite in a hypnotically precise finger-picking style reminiscent of John Fahey, but further out.
The Death Adder
Rod Poole doesn’t just play guitar, he plays a 49 minute improvisation on a guitar tuned in just intonation. This isn’t mentioned in the liner notes, but on the WIN Records’ Rod Poole page he states:
“THE DEATH ADDER” is constructed with considerably more complex ratios involving the prime numbers eleven & seven. When you utilize fractions based on these primes you find yourself playing pitches which are virtually as far removed from the twelve tones of equal division as you can get.
Although the rippling and shimmering arpeggios remind one of the Well Tuned Piano, Poole also incorporates percussive tapping on the body of the guitar and apparently intentional occasional sitar-like buzzing strings. At one particularly intense moment, we can hear him doing what sound like deep breathing exercises. At least he isn’t grunting and groaning in an orgasmic Keith Jarrett frenzy!
Another welcome addition to the ever expanding library of interesting just intonation recordings. Where’s the next one Rod? How about a seven hour Well Tuned Guitar?
Rod Poole is back with his second CD on WIN Records. Based on the same tuning as his last CD The Death Adder, in the liner notes, the composer writes about his improvisations “all have the capacity to be different from each other”. This edition has a bit less of the twirling arpeggios, but more introspective single lines and space. If you’ve heard the 1st CD, you’ll recognize Poole. If you get December 1996, you’ll also want to check out his previous work. Liner notes include a specific breakdown of the 11 limit just intonation tuning that Poole uses on his specially modified guitar. Ratios are named!!!
Rod Poole/Sasha Bogdanwitsch
(Just Guitar 01; USA)
Microtonal Just Intonation guitarist Rod Poole has released some amazing recordings, but they have been out of print for a while. By starting his Justguitar label the situation has now changed for the better.
For this first release on his new label, Rod plays his refretted Martin acoustic guitar and is joined by the singing of Sasha Bogdanowitsch. Nine improvisations become instant compositions – fleet finger picked arpeggios juxtaposed with contemplative droning sections and wordless syllables – some tracks have bowed or prepared guitar. This one blows me away – I’m looking forward to the archives and previous releases getting released on this label. I’ll never forget the times I’ve heard these guys perform including Rod’s performance at the old location of DMG on East 5th Street in June 2001 or his improvisations with Derek Bailey at Tonic that December and Sasha’s appearance at the American Festival of Microtonal Music here in NYC in 1998.
– guest review by Art Gumm.
David Beardsley aka Art Gumm
Downtown Music Gallery