photograph by Helen MacKinlay
January 1987 issue
In the mid-1980s, after his Roots of Madness
days, Geoff Alexander wrote and recorded
several avant-garde compositions for the Farfisa VIP 500 electronic organ. They
appeared on two cassette albums, Canódromo, and San José
Confidential, along with compositions written for other
instruments. The organ pieces,
for Farfisa Organ, were originally released on CD, and will
soon be available for listening on the internet.
'Terre Inconnue', a piece which appears on the CD, has extensive
notes regarding its playing and composition, which,
due to their length, are not printed on the CD.
Geoff's performances on the Farfisa were noted in the January, 1987 Keyboard
magazine special issue dedicated to Experimental Music, which also
included pieces on John Cage, Conlon Nancarrow, and Sun Ra. From that
issue, Bob Doerschuk, in "Unchained Minds" noted:
On the other end of the techno scale, we have people like
Geoff Alexander, whose chosen instrument is the long-defunct Farfisa
VIP-500. Alexander gives performances around California's Silicon Valley,
America's high-tech hotbed, entirely on this artifact; his squealing,
dissonant Farfisa improvisations leave the die-hard digital synthesists in
the audience shaking their heads in wonder.
"I play a musical anachronism," he admits. "You can do so
much more with, say, a [Yamaha] DX7. So why do I play this? Well, it's got a
personality. 1 like the sound. The problem with instruments like the DX7 is
that they've opened up so many possibilities that people are losing a
certain amount of musicality in exchange for new gimmicks. With the
increasing emphasis on technology in music, people sometimes say, 'I want to
get the newest gadget. Meanwhile, I'll throw out this old piece of trash.'
Literally! I picked up my Farfisa in a junk store; it was covered with dust.
But I learned to appreciate the beauty of this really strange instrument. In
ten years, when the history of music is written, it will be divided into two
volumes: pre- and post-electric organ."
Another perspective on Alexander's point is that experimental musicians
are just as capable of under-utilizing the available technology as the
normal folks you hear in copy bands across America.
Find out more about the 'New Visions for Farfisa Organ'