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Taking the alphabet by the horns

Rarely is an instrumental concert as visually exciting as it is aurally, but that was the case at the Darmstadt Ensemble’s quirky recent performance

One of Carol Szymanski’s 26 ”phonemophones” Jeremy Gordon. Courtesy of Arts Brookfield

Rarely is an instrumental concert as visually exciting as it is aurally, but that was the case at the Darmstadt Ensemble’s quirky recent performance for WNYC’s New Sounds Live at Brookfield Place, where the band played circular, zig-zagging and two-belled instruments made by the artist Carol Szymanski. “The horns are challenging to play as their shapes are not usual for brass instruments,” Szymanski said. The 26 horns, which Szymanski calls “phonemophones” are shaped like the letters of the alphabet, in a font she designed. WNYC host John Schaefer suggested using Szymanski’s horns in a selection of compositions by the early electronic music pioneer Pauline Oliveros. “I am a great fan of Pauline so was honoured to be part of her tribute,” Szymanski said. “I felt that my phonemophones, by being played with this orchestra with the ‘real’ instruments, had somehow come of age.”

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 295 November 2017