"Strange Strings" is a somewhat legendary album from the mid-'60s. "I'm painting pictures of things I know about, and things I've felt, that the world hasn't had the chance to feel..." -Sun Ra, interviewed by Henry Dumas in 1966.Recorded in 1966, and first published in 1967, this is the peak of Sun Ra's studies on possibilities of strings' sound.
The Arkestra uses here a huge range of strings instruments, from the usual (like double bass and viola), to the exotic ones (ukelin, bandura, zither,dutar and others), identified in the original liner notes as "electronic strings", but that were acoustic instruments amplified with microphones placed very close to the sound hole, and then treated with reverb and distortion.
"Marshall Allen said that when they began to record the musicians asked Sun Ra what they should play, and he answered only that he would point to them when he wanted them to start. The result is an astonishing achievement, a musical event which seems independent of all other musical traditions and histories.... The piece is all texture, with no sense of tonality except where Art Jenkins sings through a metal megaphone with a tunnel voice. But to say that the instruments seem out of tune misses the point, since there is no "tune", and in any case the Arkestra did not know how to tune most of the instruments..." - John F Szwed
"Worlds Approaching" is a great tune, anchored by a bass ostinato and timpani and featuring several fantastic solos, including Marshall Allen on oboe, Robert Cummings on bass clarinet, John Gilmore on tenor, and Sun Ra on electric piano. Off and on throughout the tune, Bugs Hunter applies near-lethal doses of reverb, giving the piece a very odd but interesting sound. "Strange Strings" is one of those songs that is likely to inspire some sort of "you call that music?" comment from your grandmother, or even from open-minded friends. It sounds like they raided the local pawnshop for anything with strings on it, then passed them out to the bandmembers. It's difficult to tell if some of these instruments have been prepared in some way, or if they're simply being played by untutored hands. There are also lots of drums and some viola playing from Ronnie Boykins that is also treated heavily with reverb. Despite the cacophony, there is a definite ebb and flow to the piece and what seem like different movements or themes. Whatever you think of the music contained, there's no denying that it produced some of the most remarkable sounds of the mid-'60s. If you don't like "far out," stay clear of this one.
(ca. 224 kbps, cover art included)