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Over Nine Waves 

A blend of storytelling with beatbox, cello, bass guitar, and flute that's flat-out cool

Wednesday, Jun 25 2003
Tim Barsky is a "battle flutist." What this involves, mainly, is playing tunes on his flute over a beatbox rhythm from his own lips, tongue, and chest -- sometimes half a dozen lines of melody and rhythm at once. He would like to compete with other battle flutists the way beatboxers compete in clubs, trading tricky phrases and riffs, but no one else plays hip hop flute well enough to keep up. So Barsky tells stories instead, and Over Nine Waves is a collection of three of them within a kind of variety-show framework, featuring guest artists like the break-dancing Fillmore Rocks Crew or the incredible Andrew Chaikin (who can mimic not only some rather intense turntabling, but also electronic music like techno and house). Two of the tales here -- one about an arrest in Oakland and the other about the Seattle WTO protests -- are engaging; when Barsky talks to the audience in his direct, open way and blends the facts with his unusual music, he carries the storytelling form in unheard-of directions. When he indulges his taste for myth and subjects his audience to "epics" like the Irish tale of Midr and Eideen, however, the results are tedious. Barsky's enthusiasm for mythic material feels a bit bookish and forced. He also has mannerisms -- like a high-pitched Jewish chant -- that cloy when he relies on them to make his yarns interesting. But his work is one-of-a-kind: The blend of storytelling with beatbox (sometimes accompanied by Bryan Neuberg), cello (Jessica Ivry), bass guitar (Shree Shyam), and flute is flat-out cool, and the music alone is worth the price of admission.


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