Obituary: Microtonal composer Dean Drummond, 64

Posted on: April 23, 2013

In Monday’s (4/22) Los Angeles Times, Don Heckman writes, “Drawn to imaginative ideas about sound and pitch, musician and composer Dean Drummond found the traditional instruments of European classical music inadequate to perform the seemingly ‘out of tune’ intervals of microtonal music. So he followed the lead of his mentor—iconoclastic American composer Harry Partch—and invented instruments that would produce a complete palette of tonal pitches. The music makers were known by such fittingly unconventional names as the zoomoozophone and juststrokerods. … He also co-founded a cutting-edge ensemble, Newband, devoted to playing microtonal music. Drummond, 64, died April 13 in Princeton, N.J., according to his companion, Esther Starry Shor. He had multiple myeloma. Composers including John Cage, Muhal Richard Abrams and Bob Telson have composed works for the zoomoozophone, described on Drummond’s website as ‘a 31-tones-per-octave, just-intoned metalophone, played on usually with mallets, but also with bass bow, consisting of 129 suspended aluminum tubes.’ … After moving to New York City in 1976, Drummond and his then-wife, flutist Stefani Starin, formed Newband. The ensemble’s repertoire reached from traditionally tonal classical music and jazz to the music of Partch and newly written compositions and improvisations based on microtonal principles.”

Posted April 23, 2013