As with the disc Ideas, reviewed previously on these pages, these three CDs from the American Festival of Microtonal Music combine historical curios, forgotten treasures and new compositions. For those interested in the history and development of microtonal music Gems is the must-have recording. This includes Canticle #3, written in 1941 by a 24-year-old Lou Harrison, Harry Partch’s US Highball and Mordecai Sandberg’s Psalm 51 no.2, for soprano and orchestra (1944), as well as Qoheleth by AFMM director Johnny Reinhard. US Highball is the real draw – an American musical landmark – but Harrison’s Canticle should not be overlooked: it’s an exotic/junkyard fantasy moulded into rhythmic formality and stylistic coolness in a way that recalls Cage’s percussion Constructions of the same era.
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