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CD Feature/ Tom Nunn: "Identity"

img  Tobias

Just when you think you heard it all, there is always something new coming up at the horizon. New? Not really. We are talking about Tom Nunn, a well-known experimental musician, who released his latest CD ‘Identity’ on ‘Edgetone Records a few months ago. And yet, it deserves our immediate attention.

Tom Nunn has been an active performer since 1976 and there is something very special about this extremely dedicated and gifted musician and composer: While obtaining degrees in composition from the University of Texas in Austin and getting post-graduate work at U.C. San Diego, he decided to walk a different path than many other musicians, who tried to get their feet wet in experimental music. Tom Nunn started building his own instruments, thus not depending on the relatively easily approachable benefits of the electronic developments the music world is extremely overwhelmed with.

To this day, Tom Nunn invented and constructed nearly 100 musical contraptions. Three of these impressive inventions, the mothic, the t-rodimba and the crustacean are used on ‘Identity’, and they are played with such trivial items as combs, mallets, knitting needles, picks and bows. Sounds odd? Well, listen to this CD.

I was extremely impressed by the complexity and variety of the sounds Tom produces. For example, the piece ‘Voices’ is played on the mothic, making use of t-rods, spring and knitting needle. What you hear is an explosion of voices, arguing, talking, then laughter and angriness. Tumultuous chatter, sometimes calming down, then again taking to the level of heated arguments. A brilliant sound picture of human conversation, ironically ending in a pigs pen with the rough grunting and squealing sounds of these animals. One couldn’t liken it to anything else.

On ‘Dreaminator’, the ‘Crustacean’ is used and played with bows. Here, the music achieves truly orchestral qualities. This piece is of such an extreme bandwidth of sounds, that it is hard to think of one man producing all of them at the same time on his very own. But Tom Nunn does just that. As the note inside of his CD booklet states: ‘No electronic processing was used’. After listening to ‘Identity’, that alone seems an outstanding achievement. Tom Nunn produces even more impressive qualities: That of intelligent invention, technical ability paired with musical knowledge, the vision of his instruments’ musical capabilities and, last but not least, the ability of actually playing these instruments. Having said that, we didn’t even mention his expertise in creating compositions, which fit the instruments and, on top of that, transport a musical message, that can be understood and enjoyed by anyone open to experimental excursions.

I can only urge you to buy yourself this impressive piece of musical mastership. ‘Identity’ stands out because of the extremely unique circumstances it has been created under. It is an adventure, a ride back in time when people had to use their hands to create instruments, as well as a ride into the musical future, breaking barriers with means very unusual in the 21st century. Tom Nunn did it all. A truly great achievement.

By Fred M. Wheeler

Homepage: Edgetone Records

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