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Gravikords, Whirlies, & Pyrophones
I recently found a book/CD published by Ellipsis Arts entitled
Gravikords, Whirlies, & Pyrophones: Experimental Musical Instruments.
Since most of you folks play instruments that are themselves still
close to the cutting edge (Stick, loopers, Ztars, etc.) I thought I'd
write a bit about some of the instruments covered in the book.
Daxophone - Invented by innovative guitar designer/musician Hans Reichel,
this consists of a wooden "tongue" and the Dax, a wooden chunk with both
the top and bottom slightly curved for a convex shape with one side
The Daxophone is played by bowing the tongue while pressing the Dax against
it. The book shows photos of 12 different Daxophone tongues. I echo
here comments posted a while back about this instrument - it has a
remarkably vocal quality that can at one instant sound like a person and
at aonther sound like an animal.
Waterphone - Invented by Richard Waters (how appropriate!). It looks like
a stainless steel vase with metal rods attached to the bottom section
protruding upward. It can be played with a bow, struck, rubbed with a
etc. The sound comes from the interaction of the ringing metal with the
water inside of the instrument.
Pneumaphone - Inventor: Godefried-Willem Raes. This instrument consists
of one or more inflatable cushions, home-made wind instruments, air
compresors, and a mess of air hoses connecting the compressors to keep
the cushions inflated and connecting the cushions to the wind instruments.
Thus, you play a pneumaphone by sitting on a cushion or squeezing it some
Circuit-Bent Instruments - Inventor: Qubais Reed Ghazala. Ghazala developed
the art of circuit-bending - short-circuiting audio components deliberatly
in search of new sounds. He's built some interesting instruments with this
idea, but the one on the CD is an Incantor, a heavily modified Speak And
Spell toy that is played by positioning metal balls to affect the speech
patterns and tone of the Speak And Spell voice synthesizer.
Bamboo Saxophone - A Jamaican musician named Sugar Belly built a sax
outof bamboo, cardboard, and tin. Greg, is your bamboo sax (on the Sol
album) like this? :)
I just realized I could go on all night writing about these instruments.
Suffice it to say this book/CD was a pleasant discovery. Some of the
music (like the Sugar Belly, Daxophone, and Theremin tracks) is actually
quite accessible. It's very inspirational to read that there are still
a lot of very creative instrument designers out there.