Not Harry Partch

Truth be told, there isn’t anything really remarkably artsy about the Blue Man Group’s first foray into the audio world.

The reknowned performance theater troupe whose members can catch things with their mouths produce a rather appealing, unobtrusive set of incidental music on Audio. While a good portion of the album’s liner notes are devoted to explaining Blue Man’s custom-made instruments, the context in which these musical devices are performed is instrumental pop.

Of course, we’re running on the Harry Partch asthetic of custom instrumentation — if you build it, you must create music exclusively of its own context.

In reality, there’s nothing wrong with whacking a bunch of plumbing pipes or flipping a thin, long stick in the air to the accompaniment of electric guitars and a drum set. There’s just one problem — without the visual element, it’s easy to assume that anything that doesn’t sound like a guitar or a bass or a drum set is a synthesizer.

While Blue Man’s use of plumbing pipes creates the same kind of jegog timbre prominent in Yamashiro Shoji’s Akira Symphonic Suite, my own Korg N-364 has a patch that sounds approximately like it.

All right. So Audio isn’t pop music’s answer to Harry Partch — it’s still a good set of instrumental music.

Blue Man attempt to get at something primitive with Audio, and the almost Indonesian and Southeast Asian sense of rhythm on most of the these tracks succeed. Blue Man recognizes that rhythm was the first expression of musicality in the history of man and have set melody and harmony aside for the pursuit of something driving and energetic.