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Rammel, Hal: Midwest Disquiet (Penumbra)

Hal Rammel has been building instruments since the mid 1970s; the amplified palette is an artist's palette with attached wood & metal rods played with mallets or bows, amplified with a contact microphone.

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product information:

Numbered limited edition of 99.

Label: Penumbra
Catalog ID: CD015
Squidco Product Code: 13211

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2010
Country: USA
Packaging: CD in a 7" record package
Recorded at Penumbra Studios in 2008. Engineered and Mastered by Jonathan Schenke.


Hal Rammel-amplified pallet

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Artist Biographies:

"Visual artist and musician Hal Rammel has been involved in the creative arts for the past 45 years. His work as a visual artist encompasses drawing, sculpture and collage, cartooning, and photography (pinhole and alternative cameraless processes). His work has been shown at the National Music Museum (Vermillion, SD), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL), the Wustum Museum of Fine Art (Racine, WI), Gallery 1926 (Chicago), Woodland Pattern Book Center (Milwaukee), Corbett vs. Dempsey (Chicago), and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, WI). His photographs have been reproduced on the covers of compact discs released by Hat Art (Zurich), Penumbra Music (Grafton, WI), and Long Arms (Moscow). His work as a cartoonist has appeared in several volumes including, most recently, Conversations in the Aether (Penumbra Music, 2014).

As a composer and improviser he utilizes musical instruments of his own design and construction, releasing many recordings on his own label Penumbra Music. During the 1980s he was an active member of Chicago's experimental and improvised music scene performing frequently with Gene Coleman, Michael Zerang, John Corbett, Terri Kapsalis, Lou Mallozzi, Jim Baker, Don Meckley and others. In the 1990s he performed at numerous music festivals in the United States and Canada including the Newfoundland Sound Symposium (in 1996 in duo with Johannes Bergmark), the No Music Festival (in 1998 with the Nihilist Spasm Band), and several others. Presently residing in southeastern Wisconsin he performs and records in a variety of projects with Steve Nelson-Raney, Chrisopher Burns, Matt Turner, Jason Wietlispach, Jim Schoenecker, Chris Rosenau, and Jon Mueller in various ensembles that have included Audiotrope, Raccoons, Scrawl, and PaVda releasing recordings with some of these ensembles on Crouton Records, Soutrane, Utech Records, and Necessary Arts. In 2007 he organized and led the quartet The LOST DATA Project (with Lou Mallozzi, Jim Schoenecker, and Jon Mueller) in performances at Woodland Pattern Book Center (Milwaukee), Elastic (Chicago), and the Sugar Maple (Milwaukee). In 2011 he founded the Great Lakes Improvising Orchestra to explore large ensemble open form and structured improvisation, an ensemble that includes many composers and improvisers active in Milwaukee's improvised music landscape. Presently, he improvises regularly with Christopher Burns in the duo Scrawl, with Linda Binder in the duo PaVda, and with Jason Weitlispach, Mark Mantel, Wilhelm Matthias, and Joshua Lesniak in the Oak Creek Ensemble.

In 2013, fourteen instruments designed and built by Hal Rammel were included in the permanent collection of the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD. These acquisitions include many acoustic instruments built in the early 1990s that figured prominently in his work with Chicago improvisers and in his early recordings on Penumbra Music label. The National Music Museum also acquired four amplified palettes dating from 1997 to 2010.

As an author Hal Rammel has written on musical instrument invention for Experimental Musical Instruments, Rubberneck, and Musical Traditions. His full-length study of surrealism and American folklore, Nowhere in America: The Big Rock Candy Mountain and Other Comic Utopias (including discussion of 'Haywire Mac' McClintock, Blind Blake, Bo Diddley, Al Capp and the Shmoo, Jack Benny, and Spike Jones and Red Ingle), was published by University of Illinois Press in 1991. His liner note essays may be found on recordings released by Atavistic Records and CRI, most recently for the Unheard Music series reissue of Sun Ra's Strange Strings.

As a graphic artist, Hal Rammel has published numerous books of comix and cartoons along with, in the later 70s and early 80s, two chapbooks of pen and ink drawings. His most recent publication is Conversations in the Aether, an Aeolian melodrama and exploration of the visual worlds of 20th century artists such as Paul Klee, Toyen, and Victor Brauner.

Hal Rammel curates the Alternating Currents Live performance series at Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee and was the host of Alternating Currents on WMSE (91.7FM) Milwaukee from 1992 until December 2014."

-Hal Rammell Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.
track listing:

1. Lost Bridge 7:54

2. The Undiscovered I 4:30

3. Dust of Details 10:28

4. Distance So Vivid 11:23

5. Throttle and Disregard 8:26

6. The Undiscovered II 4:25
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"As a visual artist, composer, and performer Hal Rammel has been designing and building unusual one-of-a-kind musical instruments since the mid 1970s. The amplified palette - first constructed in 1991 - is simply an artist's palette with various wood and metal rods attached to be played with mallets or bows specifically designed for the instrument. Amplified with a contact microphone it generates sounds which on first hearing may be likened to a mbira ('thumb piano') or to a prepared piano or - when played with a bow - to a cello or viola.

Midwest Disquiet is Hal Rammel's first solo recording on the amplified palette since the release of the Crouton 10" Like Water Tightly Wound early in 2007. Solo recordings of the instrument are few and far between. Only the set of three 7" singles Lost Data from 2006 and the 1994 collection Elsewheres (all released by Penumbra Music) round out its sparse discography.

On Midwest Disquiet the unique timbal qualities of the palette are carefully explored from the rough growls of "Throttle and Disregard" to soft percussive rattling on "Distance So Vivid." Six performances round out this 50 minutes disc, including two variations on "The Undiscovered" and an extended all-percussion piece titled "Distance so Vivid," all captured in an intimate detailed recording mastered at Chicago 's Experimental Sound Studio."-Penumbra Music

Regarding Hal Rammel's previous amplified palette recordings:

"This is music for which descriptions are useless - a record that by its existence alone fails a description merely in words. Accompanied by a photograph of his invention and a detailed description of the process, it comes as beautifully packaged as the music contained inside. In a nutshell, an instant classic record."-GAZETTE

"The music retains a ruminative character but balances careful consideration with a willingness to just let things happen and see what transpires. The results are simply lovely, deep and, for some of us, intensely nostalgic."-Bagatellen

Numbered limited edition of 99.
Related Categories of Interest:

Electro-Acoustic Improv
Improvised Music
Percussion & Drums
Limited Editions & Out of Print

Other Releases With These Artists:
Recommended & Related Releases:
Other Recommended Releases:
Rammel, Hal
The Amplified Palette: A History in Pictures [BOOK + 2 CDS]
Turner, Matt / Hal Rammel
As On A Pivot Of Air [10'' VINYL]

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