“Blu Box” is a collaborative concert work by composers Jody Kruskal, John Morton and the Gamelan Son of Lion ensemble. Conceived as an experiment in blues improvisation for modified and processed music box, A/E Anglo concertina, violin, alto recorder and gamelan orchestra of pitched percussion, this recording is from a live premier performance on May 3rd 2009 at the Tarrytown Library, NY.
The A/E Anglo concertina (Jody Kruskal) and the gamelan have only a few notes in common, which makes it a tightrope walk to play as there are very few “in-tune” notes on the instrument. The violin (Barbara Benary) and recorder (Laura Liben) are better equipped to play the gamelan pitches which mostly fall between the cracks of Western equal temperament.
“Blu Box” is based on the sound world of an actual music box mechanism that was modified by sound artist John Morton. He takes standard music boxes and retunes them, alters the pin barrels by removing pins or reversing the direction of travel. By use of a contact mic he processes the live sound through his laptop in real-time and is a fully performing member of the ensemble. The music box plays throughout and it is plain to hear the repeated crunchy clicking as John winds it up.
The lower gamelan instruments play a slow ostinato while the upper instruments play non-metric polyrhythms in relation to the eccentric repeated pattern of the music box. The concertina, violin and finally the recorder perform an arrangement of improvised blues related motifs in this unusual orchestral arrangement for Gamelan, Music Box and Western instruments.