Anarchestra is an orchestra of over two hundred unique musical instruments built (with a few exceptions) by Alex Ferris (1954-) an American musician, composer, and theorist, to explore alternative timbres, tunings, and methods of playing.
There is more writing, etc. on the old website http://www.anarchestra.net/index2.php (not updated for several years because the email got hacked and I can’t talk to it anymore). The ideas and approaches to writing have (naturally) evolved over time, but the motivations are pretty much the same.
Anarchestra music is available at bandcamp (free when enough people pay, they only allow x-amount of free downloads per month).
Eventually, there will be a place where the music will be free all the time.
Anarchestra includes instruments from the four basic classifications:
and Winds (100+)
Most of the percussion and strings are equipped with magnetic pickups (designed and made by Ferris).
Public events featuring Anarchestra are “unmediated”, i.e., no division is established between performers and audience, all present are encouraged to perform.
“I want people to participate. To me, that’s the real meaning of folk music, is folks playing music, together, y’know, tribal, village, whatever sense you want to call it, a community, making music together. . . . I want everybody to join in and do it and have fun. And play and feel enabled and empowered and take some responsibility for how it comes out.” (documentary “Um . . . yeah, so I did this”, 2013, YouTube)
Since 2001, several hundred people have played the instruments in W. Tisbury (Ma), Santa Fe, Tucson, Boston, Providence, several towns in Massachusetts and Vermont, New York City, and “some commune in Virginia”.
Several of the live shows have been recorded and released on CD.
for notes on recordings go to:
Ferris (alone and with collaborators) has recorded the instruments extensively in studio.
Beginning in 2001, Ferris began recording the instruments, intending at that point to use them as suppliments to conventional instruments, but “… realized that conventional instruments would just be superfluous, that they could only impoverish the autonomous soundworld I was beginning to explore and develop” (Anarchestra: Rumor 2001, liner notes).
Working fully outside of equal temperament for the first time “dislocated me from the most basic assumptions underlying the theories those instruments had been designed and built to execute . . . . What I’d taken for granted before as good sound and intonation just seemed trite and commonplace all of a sudden. . . . I was particularly intrigued by the way general tonalities tended to emerge from the ensemble by its own consensus ”. (Anarchestra: Rumor 2001, liner notes)
“There’s nothing wrong with the equal temperament system. A lot of wonderful music of great diversity has been made with it. As one system out of many, it has much to recommend it. . . . But we cheat ourselves at a very basic human level when we narrow our choices of available pitch relationships to its confines.” (Tangents, unpublished manuscript, 2015)
While recording 4-04 (April, 2004), Ferris “wanted to get away from using the phrase structures I’d become habituated to, to play without being able to take the meter for granted.” (Anarchestra: 4-04, liner notes) He was “fascinated by the music of Moondog around that time. I felt an affinity to his elegant and simple radicalisms, the way his music responds to its own curiosity. He had said he didn’t want to die in 4/4 time . . . I didn’t want to die that way either.” (Anarchestra: 4-04, liner notes) “(Longer) odd signatures allowed both “fourness” and “threeness” to coexist in the same piece of music without forcing either of them to sound inevitable. That ambiguity encouraged the spontaneity of shaping phrases I had felt was impossible in the conventional meters.” (Anarchestra: notes on recordings)
Aside from two CDs (Endurzbo, Un Coeur Simple, both 2006) that used his recorded heartbeat (3/4) as a drum track, none of the pieces (studies) he has recorded by himself since 2004 have been in either 4/4, 3/4 or any permutation of them.