Tone Road Ramblers: Taking Music Outside the Box

Tone Road Ramblers:  Taking Music Outside the Box

Who: Tone Road Ramblers
What: avant-garde jazz, world music
When: 2011-04-08
Tone Road Ramblers: Taking Music Outside the Box
Brian Wilson

On Friday, April 8, experimental-music group the Tone Toad Ramblers will perform at Shryock Theater as part of the Outside the Box Music Festival. Since 1981, the group has explored the boundaries of traditional music. Incorporating a wide range of styles, including jazz, world, and microtonal music, their sound is often difficult to categorize.

"It's really more about an experience and not about a description," says Tone Road Ramblers member Eric Mandat, who is also a professor of clarinet and a distinguished scholar at SIU. "It kind of defies a description."

Like Harry Partch or Philip Glass, the Tone Road Ramblers have favored free creative experimentation over mass audience appeal. This has meant alienating certain music fans, especially those who seek nothing beyond the escapism of the top forty. But it has also introduced many listeners to thinking about very different musical possibilities.

"I think because the pre-performance descriptions are so inadequate," Mandat says, "it's difficult for people to have strong preconceived notions about what the music is. And it means that the experience has no basis in a personal history, necessarily, unless they're already conversant with free improvisation or microtonal music. So there are things that they can latch on to, but they're not the same things for each person."

Mandat joined the group in 1989, and says it was an easy process of adaptation because "right from the start we recognized that we shared a similar aesthetic view of music creation."

Much of this process of creation involves an active collaboration from all of the group's members. Each year they gather from across the country to catch up, share personal experiences, and exchange possible music ideas.

"There's not a guarantee that anything is gonna come out," Mandat says. "The getting together part of it is really more reconnecting and about sort of the music equivalent of what happens when a bunch of really good friends get together. They tell stories about what they've been up to, they reconnect, there are sub-groups, there's everybody laughing together, there's one-on-one time. So what happens is that the music that we explore during those times of getting together is really just a non-verbal analogy to our conversations."

Purchase tickets online at <>, by phone at (618) 453-6000, or in person at Shryock Auditorium. For more information, including the complete schedule for the Outside the Box Music Festival, visit <>.

who: Tone Road Ramblers

what: avant-garde jazz, world music

where: Shryock Auditorium

when: Friday, April 8