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Ellen Fullman plays her homemade and very weird "Long String Instrument"; film composer Michael Penn shows his pop side at Café Du Nord

Wednesday, Apr 6 2005
Less a musician than a sound researcher, veteran avant-gardist Ellen Fullman plays a peculiar contrivance of her own design, simply called the "Long String Instrument." Appearing like a luminescent force field out of a sci-fi flick, the LSI is basically a couple of sets of 30 or so strings each -- attached to a spruce soundboard and a plywood box via tuning pegs at either end -- that run about waist-high and 50 or more feet in length. There's a footpath between the pairs of strings that Fullman walks up and down with the poise of a dancer, her rosined fingers gliding along the stainless-steel wires like a bow on an enormous violin. In an effort to push beyond typical Western-music standards, the artist tunes her contraption on the microtonal level, so she can access the myriad notes between the notes, as it were. The result is an otherworldly drone that undulates as if with a life of its own, spellbinding the listener in a dream world that haunts long after the sounds decay. Currently residing in Berkeley, Fullman kicks off the two-month-long "Just Intonation Network Twentieth Anniversary Concert Series" on Saturday, April 9, at SomArts Gallery; call 864-0411 or go to for more info. -- Sam Prestianni

Ask Chris Jagger, Mike McGear (Sir Paul's brother), or Livingston Taylor -- prominent siblings are usually a performer's hindrance. The assumptions are: that the musicians only have a career because of superstar brother's/sister's influence, or that said sibling's shadow will always eclipse their own. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Michael Penn has himself a double whammy, seeing as über-actor Sean is his bro and he's married to indie rock doyenne Aimee Mann. But that hasn't stunted his creativity any -- this Penn has carved several niches for himself, both as a film scorer (Boogie Nights, among others) and as a producer/songwriter in the vein of the Beatles (see the Wallflowers' Breach, five songs of '03's Liz Phair, the Top 40 hit "No Myth" in '89, etc.). His latest album, Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947, finds Penn declaring his independence from the megaconglomerates, releasing it under his (and Mann's) United Musicians banner. Mr. Hollywood is a gem of kitsch-free, yearning retro-pop, lusciously layered and melodious. Let Penn soothe your manic Monday this April 11 at Café Du Nord; call 861-5016 or visit Mark Keresman


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