The Barnum Museum

The Barnum Museum

A trip through the fantastical
Barry Schrader
Barry Schrader
Catalog Number: 

Valencia, CA

Release Date: 
Sep 25, 2012
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Based on the short story The Barnum Museum by Pulitzer Prize winning author Steven Millhauser, Barry Schrader has created a visionary aural journey into the surreal. Millhauser's story is a description of a Barnum Museum of the imagination, and Schrader has taken several of Millhauser's ideas and used them as the bases for creating programmatic tone poems about things that never existed. Although the album is more or less programmatic, Schrader works more in the realm of tone poem than strict narration. His keen ear for electronic composition stands out here, and the result is an album that can fly past as you become immersed in its sometimes rich, sometimes spare atmosphere. But repeated listenings reveal layers chock full of thick textures and unexpected melodic resonance.

Barry Schrader has been described by Gramophone as a composer of "approachable electronic music with a distinctive individual voice to reward the adventurous." Computer Music Journal states that Schrader's "music withstands the test of time and stands uniquely in the American electronic music genre." Schrader's compositions have been presented throughout the world. He is the founder and the first president of SEAMUS (The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States) and has been involved with the inauguration and operation of several concert series such as SCREAM (Southern California Resource for Electro-Acoustic Music), the Currents concert series at Theatre Vanguard (the first ongoing series of electro-acoustic music concerts in the U.S.), and the CalArts Electro-Acoustic Music Marathon. He has been a member of the Composition Faculty of the California Institute of the Arts School of Music since 1971, and has taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the California State University at Los Angeles, and The University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

"There's a great sweep to Schrader's work that puts it more in line with ambitious large-scale electronic works by the likes of Stockhausen (Hymnen), Eloy (Shanti) and Henry (take your pick), a line that can be traced backwards to Mahler, Bruckner and Beethoven." —Paris Transatlantic Magazine


“[L]ike the soundtrack to a bizarre science fiction film. Schrader seems to be driven by the pure desire to create … never letting boundaries get in the way of his boundless creative expression. Plenty of cool sounds here that would make Wendy Carlos proud. … His music is always spellbinding and unique. A wild mental audio ride.” [
—Don W. Seven

"Schrader's piece de resistance in this strange menagerie is the phantasmagorical 16+ minute 'Chamber of False Things.' … Whatever there was previously, there is even more of it in here. The minor three chord theme from the beginning is reprised; there is more descent and opening into vast space; toots of a calliope; dark and ominous drones; a march-like percussive section on hollow wood; glittering fairy dust falling from above; more swirling arpeggios, culminating in a crescendo of the great pipe organ again. Awesome! … Words fail in these descriptions as this is something that you just have to hear. … I'm giving this album five stars not only because I because I think that it's an amazing work, but also because it's intriguing to enough to warrant multiple plays, and I don't see how it could be any better." [FULL ARTICLE]
Steve Mecca