April 19, 2012
Last Friday the campus was graced by virtuoso hammered dulcimer and fiddle player Ken Kolodner and his son Bradley, who plays several kinds of banjos, principally the clawhammer banjo.
With a doctorate in Public Health, Ken Kolodner began performing music in the mid 1980s and has made playing and teaching his major focus ever since. He and his son gave what seemed like a spontaneous jam session concert in List.
Much of the music they played had been composed either by Ken or Bradley. Duets, solos and even some singing shaped the concert, during which Ken played the dulcimer, the hammered mbira and the fiddle, while Bradley played the banjo, the banjola and the gourd banjo. On either side of their break, they were joined by Dan Feinberg, ’12, on the guitar; Dan grew up with Bradley, and they have played together on several occasions.
The hammered dulcimer has an almost harp like sound except that the strings are struck rather than plucked. In design, it’s a bit like a reverse piano, with the lower pitched strings on the left and the melody strings on the right. Also, the pedal, unlike the one on the piano, dampens the sound rather than sustaining it. The hammered mbira has its origins in the African “thumb piano,” but is clearly a western extension of that instrument. In timbre it sounds a bit like a steel drum but has a much mellower sound.
For two plus hours, the Kolodners provided a wide variety of listenable music from instruments not often heard on the Hamilton campus. The concert audience showed their appreciation by calling the Kolodners back for a couple of encores.