Anonymous Family Reunion

- conceived of & organized by: Anonymous

- edited by: Anonymous

- featuring: the Volunteers Collective (13 Anonymice from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New York City, Bally (PA), Allentown, Philadelphia, & Maple Shade (NJ)

- $25.00 - (1/2 hour)

- this comes with a 132pp book with 7 color illustrations & is somewhat lavishly produced.


From: "Experimental Musical Instruments" Vol 13 #4

- June 1998 - us@


In the issues leading up to summer 1997, notices appeared in EMI announcing an Anonymous Family Reunion - a proposed gathering of people who have at one time or another chosen to be anonymous. The plans for the reunion provided for activities involving unusual found and invented instruments, including trips to Pennsylvania's Ringing Rocks State Park and to the studio in whic reside the late Harry Bertoia's unique sound sculptures, as well as those of his son Val Bertoia.

The event took place as planned on the weekend of August 29-31. Documentation of the event has now appeared, and it comes in the form of a book-and-video combination, plus a separate audio cassette tape.

The book/video portion has a Siamese-twins format: a staple-bound book of 132 pages physically joined at the back to the plastic case that holds the video. The book pages are cut squiggly at the edges, each page squiggled differently so that they don't line up together, and the pages, which don't stay shut but tend to fan out half-open, are all different colors, tending toward lime greens, pinks and pastel purples.

The book and video were created by Anonymous, the event's organizer. As with all else from this particular Anonymous, this is a rare and completely unique document. It's personal, frank, devoid of sheen or show or pretense; it's funny, depressing, moving, irritating. Much of the text is made up of reproductions of correspondence involved in the planning of the event, with connective narrative and commentary from Anonymous. With the continuing narrative we eventually get to the event itself, learning how it survived several minor disasters and a major one. The text winds down at the end with after-the-fact correspondence and reflections. It's seemingly prosaic material - the paper trail left by the event preparations - but it makes intriguing reading because somehow within the exchanges of e-mail messages and postcards, human personalities lie half-concealed and oddly, often unflateringly, revealed.

The video starts with scenes shot at Ringing Rocks, featuring several anons sounding the rocks with hammers, and playing a few other instruments as well. The video tape's sound reproduction is not the greatest, nor is the image quality, but you do get a sense of the clear, ringing tone that the best of the big boulders produce. Later the scene moves to the Bertoia studios. Here, again despite imperfect reproduction quality, the viewer can get a sense of the look and sound of Harry Bertoia's remarkable instruments, with their swaying forests of clanging and sizzling upright metal rods, and the impressive booming of giant gongs.

The separate cassette is labeled on one side "Saturday, August 30, 1997," presenting sounds recorded during the first day of the reunion, including three segments from Ringing Rocks and two from the Sonambient Theater (the Bertoia studio). The second side is "Sunday, August 31, 1997," and it contains longer segments recorded among the Bertoia instruments. I find the Sunday recordings particularly effective. The cassette, on side two at least, has decent sound quality, and you can get a wonderful sense of the instrument's sounds. A sustained ebb and flow of Bertoian sizzle underlies most of the side - a beautiful, shifting metallic spectrum. Over this rises a variety of contrasting sounds. The giant gongs thunder and then are silent; a mix of other instruments, including several brought from elsewhere by various anons, stand as color patches in relief. My appreciation goes to this ad hoc group for their good listening/sounding of the instruments.

- Bart Hopkin


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The reviews are not necessarily copied verbatim from the original. Usually, small apparent typos are corrected & obsolete addresses are removed. In some cases, I may choose to leave misspellings, misinformation, etc intact to demonstrate how sloppy the reviewer is. Of course, there may be times when the original packaging was confusing (deliberately or otherwise) which may effect the reviewer's comprehension. The more recent the tapes are, the less likely this is to be the case. Most of the recent tapes provide fairly extensive liner notes. In some cases, reviewers whose native language isn't English may be writing in English anyway for the sake of 'internationalizing' their reviews. Obviously, this may lead to what strikes native English speakers as 'bad' English. Hopefully, equally obviously, this should not be interpreted as a lack of intelligence in the writing. Editorial notes may be inserted into the reviews in [brackets]. In many instances, I (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE) replied to reviews that I disagreed with strongly. These replies are included here. In some cases, I may add additional retrospective comments.