The Duringer Expeditions — Volume One
(Heavenbound Systems, 1995, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1996-03-01
Every now and then something comes along that's so unusual or revolutionary that one has to stand up and take note. What's revolutionary about this album is not so much the music, but how the music was made. Jacob Duringer is a composer, musician, and electronics engineer turned inventor, who – frustrated with the limitations of the standard keyboard – began (around 1978) to develop the "Monolith," short for Monolithic Two-dimensional Keyboard. The Monolith uses the same black/white key configuration (whole tones and semi-tones of the standard chromatic scale) as a conventional keyboard, but the keys are arranged in fifteen horizontal rows, each row playing a different synthesizer or MIDI channel. The keys themselves were shortened to fingertip size, a little over one inch long, thereby allowing all fifteen rows to occupy a smaller space. In turn, this allows the performer to play many parts of a multi-timbral composition in a live setting more efficiently without using stacks of separate keyboards, and that is precisely what Duringer has done here. The disc doubly serves as a showcase for his compositions as well as a demonstration disc for the capabilities of the Monolith. The music on the disc is very symphonic in nature, offering a good workout for the instrument's capabilities, which according to the booklet was all performed live. Duringer is joined by a drummer and guitarist as required, although many of the passages are exclusively for keyboards. The album consists of two long suites, totaling just under an hour. Because of the heavy symphonic keyboard driven nature of the music, I am often reminded of The Enid, yet under the surface the music here is quite different. It's all digital MIDI-controlled synths, so have your ears ready, but it's still a very impressive effort, and one that I'm sure many would be interested in hearing.
Related artist(s): Jacob Duringer
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