Back in the early ‘70s, New York composer Charlemagne Palestine steered minimalism in a direction he called “strumming.” Two notes are batted back and forth rapidly, sometimes adding another to pair up with the higher one, until a strange overtone is achieved. The Brussels-based label Sub Rosa has secured three recordings of pieces that have otherwise been forgotten since the me decade, and released them on a three-CD set under the title Strumming Music.
The first disc is Palestine performing a 52-minute work on the piano himself. The second disc is a recording of Betsy Freeman playing a similar piece for the harpsichord three years later. The last installment is for a string ensemble from the San Francisco Conservatory under the supervision of John Adams. A wonky mix, likely caused by faulty microphones coupled with distracting, extraneous coughs, begs for these pieces to be recorded in a more flattering setting. Until then, enjoy the drone.