OPTION - Music Alternatives

by Bill Tilland
 January/February, 1990

MICHAEL MASLEY: Bells & Shadows Masley plays the cymbalom, a multi-stringed Hungarian instrument related to the santoor and zither. Traditionally, the cymbalom is played with hammers, and Masley has ingeniously extended the range of the instrument by developing his own "bowhammers," which he fits to all eight of his fingers while using picks on his thumbs. The bowhammers have three inches of violin bow on their ends, allowing for bowing as well as striking and plucking. Masley's sound is characteristically very deep, full of overtones and harmonics. Several pieces are somewhat uptempo, but still have a sonorous, dignified quality. This is not quite trance music, like Laraaji's hypnotic drones on electronically enhanced zither. Tempos are uniform for the most part, within and even between pieces, but Masley does utilize a melody line. The music is beautiful and mesmerizing, and several pieces hint at a wider range of sonic possibilities opened up by Masley's innovative technique (particularly "Goodbye Dali"). One hopes that he will continue to develop his own unique voice, rather than taking the safer and more anonymous easy-listening route. (Box 5232, Berkeley, CA 94705).