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Wednesday, Nov 18 1998
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Peter Whitehead
Without formal training, composer and multi-instrumentalist Peter Whitehead makes sense of the vast world of music by finding harmony in the most unlikely places. He free-associates between the arts as both a principal collaborator in Oliver DiCicco's musical-theater group Mobius Operandi and as a soloist who's penned imaginative, lyrical scores for more than a dozen film, dance, and theater productions. In concert, Whitehead may appear as a one-man sideshow, mix-matching musical cultures with no claim to "authenticity" and inserting entertaining dramatic elements into his performance. Such antics not only create a rapport between artist and audience, but also manage to deflate the potentially overblown pretensions of so-called experimental theater and ultraserious musicmaking.

Whitehead also builds and plays his own instruments, modeling them on those used by folk musicians all over the planet and constructing them out of household equipment. His three-string "heart banjo" uses a baking tin for its base, his two-string bass has a washtub body, and his odd-looking "spoon-tuned bow-harp" -- with spoons for tuning pegs -- was inspired by carvings on Egyptian pyramids. With an ear for atmosphere and novel combinations of sound, his debut CD Three Bags Full (released on his own label, Strange Attractor) calls to mind a variety of world-music snapshots, including Indonesian gamelan, Indian violin, Moroccan rabab (spike fiddle), Thai pi-phat (classical percussion ensemble), and even Appalachian back-porch finger-picking. It's an evocative, exotic synthesis that seems perfectly natural: a globe-trotting venture that requires no tour guide.

-- Sam Prestianni

Peter Whitehead appears with Mobius Operandi for the CD release party of What Were We Thinking on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 8:30 p.m. at Cell Space (Crucible Steel Gallery), 2050 Bryant (at 19th Street), S.F. Tickets are $10; call 285-7888. He performs solo at the Stretch Festival (which runs Nov. 19-22) on Sunday, Nov. 22, at 8 p.m. at Dancers' Group Studio Theater, 3221 22nd St. (at Mission), S.F. Tickets are $10; call 824-5044.

About The Author

Sam Prestianni

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