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The eight members of the Hutchins Consort schlepped their fiddles to the Encinitas Public Library to give a demonstration of microtonalism. They play instruments built by the late Dr. Carleen Hutchins to cover the entire range of music, from the wee treble violin -- an octave above the standard violin -- to the humongous contrabass violin -- an octave below the cello.

The consort's founder, contrabassist Joe McNalley, explained that microtonalism employs intervals narrower than the usual 12 per octave, that his group would demonstrate 24 per octave intervals. They plunged into Barry Woods's “Polychrome,” accompanied by six Danny DeVito-sized speakers, pumping out the sounds of two marimbas. To the untrained ear, it probably sounded like rhythm in search of a melody.

The audience responded more enthusiastically to the pieces that followed: Bach's Concerto for Two Violins; selections from McNalley's Eight Immortals; Gershwin's "Summertime," as arranged by the octet's composer-in-residence Frederick Charlton; and two of Charlton's compositions, “Three Blind Knights” and “Ozark Swamp Gas.” The last, which was the program closer and climax, had some shit-kickin' licks by treble violinist Christopher Woods. The Hutchins Consort is to be credited for its virtuosity, certainly, but also for bringing edgy, unfamiliar music forward with good humor.

  • Concert: Hutchins Consort
  • Date: April 10
  • Venue: Encinitas Public Library
  • Seats: Front row
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