There is little in today's world of music that is more complex and challenging than Howard's ensemble scores, so alien to melody and rhythm as one can be without sounding cacophonous. Each movement relies on counterpoint and juxtaposition, not on narrative development. It takes a while to realize that the synth is being used as a peer instrument to the others, not as a "novelty item" that "must" play a different role, and to realize that very few musicians have managed to demistify electronics the way Howard does. Whenever the harsh tones prevail, for example, Howard resists the temptation to use the synth to outperform everybody else. In fact, one could even argue that, most of the time, Howard does not use the synth as a keyboard at all. All the instruments are merely tools in the hands of the musicians: it is the musicians, not the instruments, that create the music.

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Sunday, March 6, 2005, 3:00am to 5:00am