Volumes 1-2 (1985-1987)
This page contains synopses of articles appearing in the Experimental Musical Instruments journal, volumes 1 and 2.
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VOLUME 1 #1, JUNE 1985
“What This Is About: Our Purpose and Our Plans” by Bart Hopkin. 1/2 page; no photos.
A brief statement of the goals and purview of Experimental Musical Instruments by its the author and publisher. [Additional keywords: EMI, newsletter, sound sources]
“Lyra” by Bart Hopkin. 1 page; 1 drawing
French designer and builder Pierre-Jean Crosets eighteen-string instrument is made of clear plastic and played entirely in harmonics. Conventional strings lack sufficiently exact tolerances for Croset’s just tuning because of irregularities in diameter and mass. [Additional Keywords: open strings, nodes, just intonation, resonant materials, guitar pickups, intervals, just intonation]
“Steel Cello and Bow Chimes” by Bart Hopkin. 2 pages; 2 drawings.
Designed by and built by Berlin-born Painter and sculptor Robert Rutman, the Single-String Steel Cello uses a suspended and flexible steel sheet that projects pitches ranging from low pitches to high, sounding harmonics and fundamental equally. The curved steel resonator of the Bow Chimes imparts an ethereal to the attached steel rods. [Additional Keywords: thunder, bowed metal, Tibetan chants, U.S. Steel Cello Ensemble]
“Tools and Techniques” by Bart Hopkin. 4+ pages; 5 drawings.
Tuning Devices: gives a rundown of the different types of tuning aids available, how they are used, what they cost, and where to purchase them. [Additional Keywords: pitch pipes, tuning forks, electronic audio tuners, strobe tuners, cycles per second, frequency, tonometers, overtones, beating.]
“Organizations & Periodicals”. 2 pages
A Reference Guide to 17 useful associations, foundations, journals, festivals, and societies relating to new instruments, their performance, history, and research.
“Books”. 1 page; 2 drawings.
Tony Pizzo of Vermont writes about his forthcoming book of instrument designs tentatively titled The Maker-Played Instrument. (Note: This book was later cancelled by the publisher and never published.) The designs are primarily adaptations of South American, African, and Asian string and percussion instruments.
British organologist Hugh Davies of London reports that the three volumes of The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments includes over 300 entries on 20th century instruments, mostly written by himself. [Additional Keywords: materials, koras, gopichands, stick zithers, bulbul tarangs.]
“Voice Modifiers”:. 1/2 page.
A call for information on instruments that alter or enhance human vocal sounds, such as mirlitons, kazoos, zobos, face-masks, or Eskimo childrens games using the oral cavities.]
“A New Instrument at the Exploratorium–The Pentaphone”: by Bart Hopkin. 1/2 page.
A brief description of Jonathan Glasier’s new instrument using five sets of tuned bars, made of paduk, bamboo, magnesium, aluminum, and travertine marble. Similar to Harry Partch’s instruments for its geometric beauty, it is tuned to a pentatonic scale, uses a symbolic system of shapes and colors to express pitch relationships, and is housed in a Pagoda-like structure in San Francisco’s Exploratorium science center. [Additional Keywords: marimbas, exhibits, museums]
VOLUME 1 #2, AUGUST 1985
“Letters” 2 pages; 2 diagrams.
Dagen Julty describes his technique for amplifying low-volume sound in a high volume stage environment with his invention named the “Micro-Sensitive Sound Chamber.” References are made to a Lief Brush interview in Musicworks magazine and the work of Tom Nunn and Prent Rodgers in California. A diagram details how the sound string and turnbuckle are anchored to the sheet metal resonator of Robert Rutman’s Steel Cello. Jordan Hemphill describes a voice modifier in his discovery of a Chinese flute with rice paper mirliton. [Additional Keywords: string tensioning, buzztones, microsonics]
“Sharon Rowell’s Clay Ocarinas” by Sharon Rowell. 4 pages; 12 drawings and diagrams.
An introduction by Bart Hopkin precedes Rowell’s article describing the principles and personal benefits of playing ceramic ocarinas, also known as vessel flutes. Rowell explains her construction methods. Her detailed article is a step-by-step demonstration of how she constructs and fits a fipple mouthpiece so that three chambers can be played at once. Noting that clay shrinks in drying and firing, it is difficult to have perfectly pitched instruments. She describes how the toneholes are sized and placed. Scales and tuning employ a pennywhistle fingering system. A sidebar lists other vessel flute makers. [Additional Keywords: ceramics, chambers, fingering charts, globular flutes, recorders, edge tones]
“The Long String Instrument”: by Bart Hopkin. 2 pages; 2 photos, 1 table, 2 diagrams.
An explanation of the physics of longitudinal vibrations in strings, which are operative in the sound of Ellen Fullman’s Long String Instrument. A table gives formulas for determining the velocity of waves traveling through wires of various lengths and metals. The design of the soundboard and attached string, as well as the tuning mechanism are described and illustrated in the diagrams. Playing techniques, tuning, and timbre, and resulting music are also described. [Additional Keywords: frequency, frequencies, velocities, iron, bronze, brass, installations, tunings, intervals, harmonies, overtones, fundamentals]
“Ellen Fullman Writes About the Evolution of the Long String Instrument” by Ellen Fullman. 1 page.
Ms. Fullman’s personal account describes a chance discovery and the ensuing process of research and experimentation. Several years of development involved self-directed study in the science of musical acoustics. Engineers showed her how to amplify the sound without a contact microphone and electronics, to lower the frequency, and to increase sustain hrough the use of brass wire and a resonating box. David Weinstein taught her about just intonation and she eventually developed charts for seeing the mathematical relationships in her tunings.[Additional Keywords: ancient tunings, chromatic, scales, installations]
“Recent Events”. 1+ pages, 2 drawings.
Sound Wave Festival: a review of this outdoor sound festival held at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area near San Francisco, in May 1985. Bill and Mary Buchen led students in the creation of many types of instruments that were played. “The Wind Antenna,” an aeolian harp built by the Buchens, was one permanent installation. Also performing were Chris Brown, Tom Nunn, and William Wynant. [Additional Keywords: community, Environmental Sculpture Project, wind harps, Fish Marimba, Gazamba, Wavicle, Crustacean]
“Voice Modifiers Follow-up”. 1/4 page.
Members of Logos Foundation in Belgium described a metal voice resonator they built in an interview in Musicworks. Tom Nunn,s Crustacean, a balloon-mounted instrument with bowed metal rods, also responds to the voice. [Additional Keywords: coil springs, mirlitons, vocals]
Book Reviews. 1/2 page.
Two books by Emil Richards catalogue his varied and wonderful collection of fascinating percussion instruments and effects: Emil Richards “World of Percussion,” and Range Finder For the Percussion Seeker: A List of Six Hundred Percussion Instruments. [Additional Keywords: sound tracks, drums]
Organizations and Periodicals. 1/2 page.
The American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) is an “international organization founded in 1971 to promote the study of the history, design and use of musical instruments in all cultures and from all periods.” The society also produces a scholarly journal and a smaller newsletter. [Additional Keywords: Galpin Society]
VOLUME 1 #3, OCTOBER 1985
“Letters” 1 & 1/2 pages.
A short note by Arthur H. Sanders from The Musical Museum offers information on the Reed Organ Society. Bill Colvig, in response to the June 1985 article on tuning devices, tells where he found WW II surplus oscilloscopes and kits. Bill and Mary Buchen give an update on recent activities. [Additional keywords: relative tuning, frequency-to-cents charts, Lou Harrison, Heathkit, flea markets, Marie Osmond, Skip La Plante, Bow Gamelan Ensemble, Ripley's Believe It Or Not]
“The Puget Sound Wind Harp” by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages. 3 drawings.
Ron Konzak’s massive aeolian harp is described, with attention to exceptional requirements of its design, construction and tuning: fundamental tones are subsonic and the acoustic behaviors of flat stainless steel banding versus round strings are discussed. Contact for Konzak, his recording of the instrument, and his own written account are provided along with information about other wind harps. [Additional keywords: overtones, resonating chambers, torsional waves, flat ribbons, ribbon strings]
“Glenn Branca and The Third Bridge” by Bart Hopkin. 1 1/2 pages. 1 diagram.
New York composer noted for his electric guitar symphonies, Branca’s harmonics guitar is designed to selectively produce the tones of the harmonic series, enabling the series to be used for scale material. The article details how the strings, the pickup and a central bridge are uniquely positioned to bring out the string harmonics. A sidebar compares conventional harmonics playing to Branca’s extended technique. [Additional keywords: nodes, octaves, guitar pickups, sliding bridges]
“Meet Mothra” by Tom Nunn. 2 pages; 2 photos.
Nunn’s electroacoustic percussion board is made from birch plywood, steel rods, combs, springs, glass, and self-adhesive sidewalk safety surfaces, which are amplified with a contact microphone. This San Francisco composer and builder’s basic playing techniques on Mothra are striking, strumming, plucking, scraping, rubbing, and bowing. He describes the construction materials, its visual aesthetic, and possibilities for future exploration; his concepts and history in free improvisation, spontaneous interactive processes, teaching, and the Bay Area Improvisational Project. [Additional keywords: Sound Wave Festival, found objects, non-musicians, Earwarg, ]
“Some Thoughts on Sound Art Exhibits” by Peter Williams Brown. 1 & 1/4 pages; 1 photo.
Brown shares some of his findings and solutions to the problems of presenting gallery-based sound exhibitions: continuous background noise levels, displaying hands-on installations, dividing space into small rooms, “tokenism,” audience interaction, volume control mechanisms, his “music box” approach, and their advantages and drawbacks. [Additional keywords: audio arts, participation, curating, sound sculptures, baffles, All Ears]
“Organizations and Periodicals”. 3/4 page.
Information on The Guild of American Luthiers: journal, history, membership, convention and contact. Over 200 Data Sheets of their quarterly journal provide an utterly unique library of practical and esoteric information. [Additional keywords: associations, string instruments, guitars, Tacoma]
“Books”. 1 page.
Marlin Halverson’s Sonic Art exhibition catalog was published for the Sonic Art Exhibition at the Art Gallery at California State College in San Bernardino, 1982. The usefulness and difficulty in acquiring catalogs of contemporary sound art exhibits is discussed. The Sonic Art exhibit is described. [Additional keywords: catalogues, audio arts, curating, sound sculptures]
“Events”. 1 page.
Review of performances by Totem, a group led by Richard Waters, inventor of the Waterphone, and Nazim Ozel, a classically trained Turkish master of the Ney flute, who performs on his Semi-Civilized Tree. These were part of a concert series at the Theater Artaud, sponsored by the Maitreya Institute of San Francisco. [Additional keywords: tree branches, water, Turkish music, natural materials]
VOLUME 1 #4, DECEMBER 1985
“Letters” 3/4 page.
Additional information on making the rectangular soundboard used in Ellen Fulman’s Long String Instrument described in EMI Volume 1 #2. [Additional keywords: soundboards, resonators]
“The Bi-Level Guitar” by David F. Marriott, Intro. by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages; 3 photos, 1 diagram.
New curved soundboard design for the acoustic guitar results in louder sound with more evenly distributed overtones. A Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) Spectral Analysis Program shows how the increased partials produce a sensation of brilliancy. Lab tests and modification of the guitar’s conventional structural properties to improve its articulation, timbre, sustain, and balance are described. [Additional keywords: classical guitars, envelopes, heat bending machines, struts, bracing, necks, fretboards, La Jolla Luthiers]
“Slit Drums and Boos” by Bart Hopkin. 2 pages, 2 drawings.
Wooden drums and their tuning problems: destructive communication between vibrations, e.g., “conflicting” notes, is addressed with various solutions provided. Jon Scoville and Reinhold Banek’s book, Sound Designs, is cited for other simple and practical variations of the slit drum. (Note: this article overstates the difficulties in tuning many-tongued tongue drums — take its pronouncements with a grain of salt.) [Additional keywords: log drums, wooden tongues, nail violins, tongue drums]
“Holy Crustacean, Batman, That Beast Sings!” by Tom Nunn. 1 1/2 pages; 1 photo.
Nunn’s Crustacean is a stainless steel disk with curved bronze rods brazed to its surface, and is supported on three inflated balloons. It is also effective for resonating a player’s own voice. Nunn briefly describes his playing technique, its construction and use in performances with Chris Brown in San Francisco. [Additional keywords: bowed metal, bowed idiophones, sympathetic vibrations]
“Musical Instrument Classification Systems” by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages; 1 diagram.
A brief history and overview of a system devised by Curt Sachs and Erich M. von Hornbostel in 1914 to address the inconsistencies in criteria for classifying instruments. A full-page chart illustrates the Sachs-Hornbostel System which is divided into four basic categories. A sidebar mentions three other more recent systems, reference titles, and also the classical Chinese system. [Additional keywords: museum curators, collectors, taxonomies, theory, organology]
“Books: A Selected Guide for Reference Works Related to New Instruments” by Bart Hopkin. 1 & 1/2 pages.
Listing of thirteen books in four categories: General, New Instruments, Musical Acoustics, and Tuning Systems. [Additional keywords: research, publications, libraries, dictionaries, education, encyclopedia, surveys, how-to, theory]
VOLUME 1 #5, FEBRUARY 1986
“Letters” 1 & 1/4 pages
Charles R. Adams on Hugo Zemp’s musical instrument classification system (Volume I #4) based in the meaning of ancient Greek, Roman, and Indian words, with reference list of books by Ernest G. McClain. A counterpoint from Stephen Smith to Bart Hopkin’s article (Volume I #4) on the tuning problems of wooden slit drums. [Additional keywords: Sanskrit, tuning systems, tongues, tongue drums, organology, ethnomusicology, Pythagorean, Plato]
“Wind, Breath and strings Round and Flat” by Charles R. Adams. 3 & 1/2 pages; 4 photos, 4 drawings.
Discussion of the Lesiba of southern Africa, an air-activated zither variously know as the gora, ugwala, or makwindi, and its culture. The article details and illustrates its construction: a stick, string, and quill; similar to bullroarers and aeolian harps, and its playing technique. A bibliography and discography is provided. [Additional keywords: John Blacking, Ron Konzak's wind harp, feathers, ribbon-reed aerophones, mouth bows, mouth harps, jews-harps, somatophones]
“Organizations and Periodicals: Conference of Intervallic Music”. 1 page.
Interval Foundation was founded by Jonathon Glasier in San Diego. Interval: Journal of Music Research and Development is a quarterly publication concerned with intonational systems and creative work in the field of microtonal music. (Interval Magazine has since ceased publication.) [Additional keywords: Harry Partch, microtonality, new instrument resources]
“Disorderly Tumbling Forth” by Bart Hopkin. 4 pages; 2 photos, 6 drawings.
Tuned idiophone designed and built by Bart Hopkin uses copper tube chimes. Versions include a keyboard action design similar to a harmonium, and a tabletop model. Tuning and materials are detailed in text and illustrations.
“Tools and Techniques: Calculating Frequencies for Equal Tempered Scales” by Bart Hopkin. 1/2 page.
Introduction to Christopher Banta’s article described below. [Additional keywords: twelve-tone equal temperament, scales, mathematics, psycho-acoustics, pitch, logarithms, logarithmic, equations]
“Scales and Their Mathematical Factors” by Christopher Banta. 1 & 1/2 pages. 5 tables.
Systematic explanation on how to use mathematical equations for determining frequencies for equal tempered scales, applied to twelve and non-twelve tone scales. [Additional keywords: twelve-tone equal temperament, scales, mathematics, psycho-acoustics, pitch, logarithms]
VOLUME 1 #6, APRIL 1986
“The Semi Civilized Tree: Designed and played by Nazim Ozel” by Bart Hopkin. 4 and 1/2 pages; 3 photos.
The Semi-Civilized Tree is a stringed instrument using the natural form of a tree branch. Its construction, playing techniques with a performance review and its future possibilities are described. It uses over four hundred strings. Harp, cello, violin, guitar, mandolin, and banjo strings work best. Ozel uses a Frap Flat Response Audio Pickup transducer (contact mike) to amplify it for performance. Guitar and harp tuning pegs are used, and several tuning arrangements coexist: some are deliberate, some random. Ozel is a Turkish-born musician and visual artist who studied the Ney flute with master musician, Aka Gunduz. [Additional keywords: driftwood, trees].
“Letters” 2 pages; 1 photo.
Tom Baker’s photo of an 8-string guitar. Bob Flower provides tuning and construction tips. [Additional keywords: tone holes]
“The Ceramic Whistles, Flutes, Ocarinas and Mirlitons of Susan Rawcliffe” by Bart Hopkin. 2 pages; 6 photos, 3 drawings.
A photo spread with brief text descriptions of the acoustic and harmonic characteristics of these hand-built clay instruments. Many are based on pre-Columbian, Olmec, and Mayan designs. Some have multiple chambers and exotic shapes. The timbre of her single, double, and triple cylindrical fipple flutes is manipulated by varying the bore shape. Background and contact information about the builder herself is also included. [Additional keywords: mouthpieces, fish skin, kazoos, tone holes]
“The Melophone, the Harmoniphone, and the Melo-Harmoniphone: Names for Invented Instruments” by Bart Hopkin. 1 page.
An essay on the aesthetics of naming unique musical instruments that takes into consideration how they are categorized and recognized, as well as how the nature of language plays its role in recognition and aesthetic thought.
Books Reviews. 1 page.
Review of the Sound/Art Exhibition catalog, with an essay by Don Goddard. The exhibit was curated by William Hellerman and sponsored by the Sound Art Foundation in 1983; held at The Sculpture Center and BACA/DCC Gallery in New York. Many of the artist are mainly visual artists. Contributors include Vito Acconci, Connie Beckley, Bill & Mary Buchen, Nicolas Collins, Sari Dienes & Pauline Oliveros, Richard Dunlap, Terry Fox, William Hellerman, Jim Hobart, Richard Lerman, Les Levine, Joe Lewis, Tom Marioni, Jim Pomeroy, Alan Scarritt, Carolee Schneemann, Bonnie Sherk, Keith Sonnier, Norman Tuck, Hannah Wilke, and Yom Gagatzi.
Kitchen Bands. 1/2 page.
A brief observation about the number of bands that play old-time popular music with household utensils. Among the questions are whether this is an isolated happening or a uniquely American tradition. The article cites four bands; primarily made up of seniors and all having a good time: The Maple Manor Cuties; The Jolly Dozen Band; Shearer’s Kitchen Band; The Women’s Club of Hawthorne. [Additional keywords: folk music, nursing homes, percussion, kazoos, washboards]
The Galpin Society. 1/2 page.
Named after pioneer organologist and researcher Canon Francis W. Galpin, this British scholarly organization is devoted to the cultural and historical study of primarily European musical instruments. Founded in England, it has a longer history than its American counterpart, the American Musical Instrument Society, and many prominent musicologists have served as its officers. Contact, journal, and membership information is supplied. [Additional keywords: periodicals, scholarship]
Letters. 1 1/2 pages; 2 drawings.
Ivor Darreg and Tony Pizzo respond to the article in issue #6, Volume 1, on creating interesting names for new instruments. Ward Hartenstein provides two drawings of his own bamboo instruments: the Tonquiro and the Devil Stick. [Additional keywords: Theremin, Megalyra, kazoo, Kosmolyra, Spoils of War, Harry Partch, Susan Rawcliffe, scrapers, strikers, shakers]
“Stephen Smith’s Conduit Marimbas and Glass Marimbas” by Bart Hopkin. 6 pages; 2 photos, 7 drawings and diagrams.
The design and construction of these microtonal instruments was inspired by Bill Colvig, Lou Harrison, Harry Partch, and Erv Wilson. Resonators of the glass marimba were made from plastic ABS pipe. The Conduit Marimba uses EMT, or electrical metal tubing, for sounding bars. The detailed explanation and illustrations show how to find nodes and how the sounding bars are mounted and suspended over tuned cylindrical resonators tubes, among other tuning and construction techniques. H.R. Bosanquet, the 19th-century designer who devised a keyboard for 53 tones per octave, provided a logical layout for the pitches. A sidebar briefly explains Smith’s interest in alternatives to twelve-tone equal temperament and his 31-tone equal temperament system. Smith also builds instruments on commission. [Additional keywords: diatonic scales, Tubalongs, tubulons, intonational systems, xylophones, esoteric tunings, just intonations]
“Teaching with Homemade Instruments: The Work of Robin Goodfellow” by Bart Hopkin. 3 1/2 pages; 6 drawings.
This Oakland-based artist conducts classes for children and adults. Students are taken through many and varied music-making activities. She also works several genres of arts and crafts, and incorporates this into her music teachings. She has made a set of six illustrated books, each devoted to one category of instruments: drums, idiophones, strings, reeds, horns, and flutes. Each book is subtitled “Recognition, Construction, and Performance,” contains a description of its instrument type and its principles, plus several instruments that children can make and play, using readily available materials, and a complement of pieces and games. Some of the simple instruments her students make and play are soda straw oboes and clarinets. Companion books are in preparation, and they can be ordered directly from Goodfellow. Contact information is provided. [Additional keywords: pedagogy, Mandala Fluteworks, schools, workshops]
“A Bibliography for Available-Material Instrument Making: With an Emphasis on Children’s books and Teaching Materials” by Tony Pizzo. 2 pages.
A bibliographic overview of resources relating to homemade instruments for young students. [Additional keywords: pedagogy, schools, workshops]
VOLUME 2, #2, AUGUST 1986
“Daniel Schmidt’s American Gamelan Instruments” by Bart Hopkin. 6 1/2 pages; 5 photos, 6 drawings.
Schmidt builds instruments rooted in but independent of the traditional Indonesian types. [Additional keywords: sounding bars, metallophones]
Letters. 2 pages.
William Holden, Bill Minor, Tom Baker, and Ivor Darreg offer their knowledge and thoughts on what scope EMI should have; a question raised in an editorial from an earlier issue.
“The Megalyra Family of Instruments” by Bart Hopkin. 1 page; 1 photo.
An introduction to Ivor Darreg’s article on the design and construction of his Megalyra family of string instruments. Two characteristics are noteworthy: they possess multiple tuning systems, and the visual guides in the form of fret-lines which make for ease of playing in any number intonational systems; both just and equal. [Additional keywords: slide guitars, steel guitars]
“Megalyra, Drone, and Newel Post” by Ivor Darreg. 4 pages. 1 photos, 1 drawing.
Darreg presents vital design and construction information for making this group of stringed instruments; to explore the advantages of flexible pitch offered by the Hawaiian or Steel Guitar The instruments are like giant four-sided guitar necks. Each side has a different tuning system combining equal or just intonation. The author traces the process of experimentation with materials: wood, strings, and piano wires. General rules of thumb regarding tuning, tension, and string length are given. The instruments use magnetic pickups for amplification. On each side, a visual pattern of fret-lines serves as a guide for the player. Figures are given for wire sizes and corresponding pitches, and for tuning pin sizes. [Additional keywords: bridges, microtonality, fretting, harmonics, sitar]
The American Gamelan Institute. 1 page.
The American Gamelan Institute was originally based in Oakland, California [relocated to Hanover, New Hampshire after publication of this article], serves an international networkfor people interested in gamelan music in Indonesa and abroad. The article gives general background and information on the organization’s journal, Balungan. It includes articles on scores, schools, building techniques, tuning systems, concerts, and interviews. [Additional keywords: Java, Bali, Sunda, Indonesia, gongs]
“Six Un-Invented instruments” by Tim Olsen. 2 pages; 6 drawings.
The author describes six fanciful instruments. Though whimsical they are not entirely impractical. The Sticcolo is a tiny transverse flute. The Selpreg or Selective Preference Guitar adapts a sansa made of saw blades to its body, and offers an alternative to sympathetic strings. The Great Pedal Clapichord and the String Carillon are extrapolations of a clavichord action. The name of the Teepeegurdie refers to the shape of this motorized hurdy-gurdy possessing 50 or more long-strings. The Stompano can be visualized as an inside-out zither. [Additional keywords: hammers, soundbox]
“Instruments Without History: The Difficulty of Gaining Acceptance For Instruments Without Existing Repertoire, Established Technique or Trained Players” by Bart Hopkin. 2 pages.
An easy-to-read speculation, supported with some anecdotal evidence, on why some new instruments are more acceptable to musicians and the public than others. [Additional keywords: techniques, traditions, patents.]
VOLUME 2, #3, OCTOBER 1986
“The Waterphone” by Bart Hopkin. 4 pages. 1 drawing; 1 photo.
The Waterphone was invented and patented by Richard Waters. This article’s narrative describes how he applied his abilities as a sculptor to an idea inspired by the kalimba (also known as a sanza or mbira) and the Tibetan water drum. A family of instruments developed around this simple construction of bronze rods welded to steel bowls, with an upright metal tube in its center. While this article gives a detailed description of the instrument’s tuning and acoustic behavior, it is noted that Waters has gone to great lengths to prevent imitators from copying his ideas and methods. This instrument has been used widely in recordings, performances, and in movie and TV sound scores, and is sold commercially. Each instrument is individually tuned, but not to a standard chromatic or diatonic scale. Water movement inside it alters the resonating frequency of the body, resulting in its peculiar pitch bending and timbral shifts. Contact information is also provided. [Additional keywords: metallophones, whale songs, sound effects.]
Letters. 1 page.
In reference to the EMI recordings, Ross Mohn comments on the difference between imagining a sound described verbally, versus hearing it.
“Gourd Instruments Made and Played by Minnie Black” by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages; 8 photos.
Nearing age 90, this Kentucky folk artist has made many harps, mandolins, guitars, lutes, drums, and hybrid instruments from dried gourds. This natural material has been used in many cultures since ancient time and grows in an immense variety of sizes and shapes. Photos and captions illustrate their construction and decoration, along with a picture of her group, the Gourd Band, in performance. [Additional keywords: The American Gourd Society]
“Principles of Mallet Design: Approaches to Mallet Making for Various Types of Percussion Instruments” by Rick Sanford. 3 pages; 4 photos; 2 drawings.
This article details homebuildable mallet designs for maximizing tone production instead of producing odd effects. It provides basic theory and practices and explains their purposes, as well as tools and sources, and mallet care. [Additional keywords: sticks, drums]
“The Mallet Kalimba” by Robert Rich. 1 1/2 pages. 2 diagrams.
Conceived and built by Darell Devore; the version described here was built by the author. A perfect beginner’s project, it can be built with inexpensive materials (under $10 at 1986 prices): aluminum or steel rod; wooden dowel rod; particle board or pressboard; styrofoam ice chest; adhesive foam rubber strips; 1″ wood screws. The making of ping pong ball mallets is described, along with its bright sound; sounding similar to an African mbira and Balinese metallophone or gamelan instrument. [Additional keywords: resonators]
Books: “Prior’s Reference Handbook of Music Math” by Glen A. Prior. 3/4 pages.
Review of a book on scale theory and related topics published in 1985 by Moustache Blue. Main topics in this concise, no-nonsense book: logarithms; nomenclature; derivation of the Pythagorean comma; beats per second; finding the guide tone; string lengths and stopping points; difference tones and summation tones; keyboard layout and interval names for 31-tone tuning; Greek modes.
VOLUME 2 #4, DECEMBER 1986
“Polychord 1 and Microtonal Steel Guitar Fretboards” by Sieman Terpstra. 3 pages; 2 photos.
The author describes his system of fretboard markings for instruments inspired by Ivor Darreg’s Megalyra family. Based on the lap-steel guitar, Terpstra plays his instruments with a sliding metal bar rather than pressing against frets. Siemen’s fingerboard overlays serve as guides to placement of the bar as well as conceptual organizers of harmonic relationships, which can be perceived either musically or mathematically. He details how color sequences are related to tuning of the pitches and chords, measurements for string lengths; and various Hindu, Chinese, and Greek scales. [Additional keywords: just intonation, equal temperament]
“The Glass Harmonica” by Vera Meyer. 4 pages; 3 photos, 1 drawing.
Opens with a brief history of the 18th-century instrument redesigned by Benjamin Franklin, now being built by Gerhard Finkenbeiner. Healing powers were attributed to its haunting and ethereal sound. Its past and current construction and mechanics are detailed. It is a friction idiophone: many sizes of cup-shaped quartz glasses spin on a motorized treadle, sounded by rubbing the rims with fingers. Meyer also performs on the instrument and is a member of the organization Glass Music International. Available recordings are also listed. [Additional keywords: glass blowing, armonicas, musical glasses, carillons]
“New Sounds From Old Sources: Musical Signal Processing with Microcomputers” by David Courtney. 6 pages; 5 diagrams.
Introduced by Bart Hopkin, Courtney gives an overview of analog and digital audio fundamentals, a history of electronic sound modification, a simple hardware setup, some of the most musically useful DSP effects, synthesis and digital sampling. [Additional keywords: microprocessors, software, programs, samples, synthesizers]
The Just Intonation Network. 1 1/4 pages.
Formed by a network of Bay Area composers in 1984, this organization based in San Francisco, California is devoted to the spread and development of music based in just intonation. They publish a journal and hold lectures and discussions. Membership and contact information provided. [Additional keywords: associations, intervals, microtonality, musical scales and scale theory]
“Some Introductory Words on Just Intonation” by Bart Hopkin. 1 1/4 pages.
This article explains some of the audible and practical differences between music made with intonational systems other than twelve-tone equal temperament. While there is continuum of pitch between any two notes an octave apart, just intervals or pitch relationships use selected frequency ratios. After Harry Partch, a considerable increase in the number of people who explore tonal possibilities outside of 12-equal occurred, represented in a number of organizations that are listed in this text. [Additional keywords: associations, Ivor Darreg, microtonal, non-western tuning systems, societies, society]
Recordings: “Parallel Galaxy” by Emmet Chapman. 1 page.
This review of a record featuring Chapman on the Stick, also describes the fretted string instrument’s design and construction. It has no body because of electronic amplification. It is not plucked or bowed, but rather sounded by a playing technique guitarists call hammering-on, with eight fingers available for tapping as in a keyboard-like fingering. Well known musicians have brought the stick to recognition: Tony Levin; Peter Gabriel; Alphonso Johnson. [Additional keywords: guitars, jazz, Stanley Jordan, commercial enterprise, patents]
“Lark In The Morning Search and Sell Services.” 1/4 page.
Sidebar announcing a way for builders of unusual instruments to sell through a retail outlet. Their services are described and contact information provided. [Additional keywords: commercial, consignment, enterprise, marketing, patents]
VOLUME 2 #5, FEBRUARY 1987
Letters. 1 page.
Anita T. Sullivan announces her book, The Seventh Dragon: The Riddle Of Equal Temperament, which was winner of the Western States Book Award. In reference to an article on destructive communication in Volume 1 #4, Michael Meadows comments on nail-violins. In reference to the Sticcolo described in the “Un-Invented Instruments” article in Volume 2, #2, Susan Rawcliffe notes that pre-Columbian Americans invented one 1,000 years ago
“Keyboard Alternatives: Some Opening Thoughts and Background” by Bart Hopkin. 4 pages; 1 diagram.
Discusses ergonomically designed layouts for the pitches of diatonic and chromatic keys and levers of the standard European keyboards, which evolved from organs, pianos, harpsichords. Graphics show several new spatial arrangements or patterns for pitch relationships as reflected in keyboard design: Limbaclav by Bob Phillips, modeled after the African kalimba (mbira) emphasizes interchangeable or modular designs. The 6-6 keyboard reduces the tonal bias to C major. Harry Partch’s Chromelodeans were harmoniums, as well as the Diamond Marimba and Quadrangulis Reversum; rebuilt to his preferred scales. Articles that address this topic in EMI and other publications are listed. [Additional keywords: clavinet, claviers, ebony, intervals, ivory, mechanisms, Ivor Darreg, Erv Wilson]
“The Sohler Keyboard System” by Mel Sohler. 1 1/2 pages. 1 photo; 1 diagram.
A logical and practical arrangement of keys with fewer fingering patterns to be learned for playing in different keys. Coupled with his notation system, Sohler’s keyboard design accelerates learning and eliminates confusion in sight reading. It incorporates symmetrical arrangements of key groups. It is an ideal alternative controller for electronic instruments. [Additional keywords: clavinet, claviers, ebony, ergonomics, intervals, ivory, organs, pianos, harpsichords, patterns]
“Piano On the Half Shell: Comments by Ivor Darreg” by Ivor Darreg. 1/2 page.
With a reprint of a 1965 Time Magazine article about a curved piano keyboard design proposed by Monique de la Bruchollerie, the author observes that musical developments make traditional pitch arrangements obsolete, yet practical innovations remain suppressed. [Additional keywords: clavinet, clavichords, ebony, ergonomics, intervals, ivory, organs, pianoforte, harpsichords, patterns]
Book review: “Percussion Notes Research Edition, Vol. 24 #3/6: Deagan Catalogs.” 1 1/2 pages. 2 drawings.
Percussive Arts Society occasionally publishes special issues of its journal Percussive Notes devoted to topics of scholarly and historical interest. This issue reprints five early catalogues from the 1920s by the J.C. Deagan Company, manufacturer of percussion instruments. Their finely detailed illustrations present thoughts on possible sound sources; reminders of a time when people spent less time with passive entertainment. Unusual and innovative items appearing in the catalogs include bells with resonators; marimbaphones with bars played with mallets, rosined gloves or bows; organ chimes made in metal but otherwise identical to traditional bamboo anklungs, a friction-rod instrument called aluminum harp, and tuned sets musical coins and rattles.[Additional keywords: marimbas, glockenspiels, metallophones, tubes, xylophones]
“A Set of Aluminum Just-Intonation Tuning Forks” by Warren Burt. 2 pages; 1 drawing.
Begins with the author’s background experiences leading to the making of a set of tuning forks tuned to a 19-tone per octave scale. He notes published sources for his research into ancient Greek modes, including theories of Ptolemy and Harry Partch. Construction details and playing techniques are provided. The appeal of community music-making is discussed, and how the ease of learning to play the tuning forks facilitates this. Their sound properties are described: clear timbres; sine waves with long decay time; Doppler and phase shift effects, deep bass tones. [Additional keywords: mallets, percussion, resonators]
“The Fipple Pipe” by Denny Genovese. 2 notation examples.
Begins with the author’s background experiences leading to the making of aluminum flutes that would play the scale of the harmonic series without finger holes. The absence of tone holes makes for distortion-free nodes. A family of instruments evolved using mouthpieces of the standard recorder style, which function differently from recorders in length and diameter. The playing techniques, maintenance, musical notation, and ensemble methods are briefly described. Ordering information for his book and tape provided. [Additional keywords: just intonation]
Periodicals: Vierundzwangzigsteljahrsschrift Der Internationalen Maultrommelvirtuosengenossenschaft, and Sawing News of the World. 1 1/2 pages.
VIM and SNW are organizations and periodicals devoted to the Jew’s Harp and the musical saw. Their content and activities are described. SNW is a publication of the manufacturer, Mussehl and Westphal in Wisconsin. VIM from Iowa City is a scholarly journal with a humorous character. Information on festivals for saw enthusiasts are also listed. [Additional keywords: Kazoophony]
“Notes Gleaned From Recent Writings by Pierre Jean Croset” by Bart Hopkin. 1 1/2 pages.
Croset is a French designer and builder of new musical instruments who wrote and article about his travel in the U.S. to study activities of his American counterparts. Cultural differences were examined. The broad categories of activity were sound sculpture, sound architecture, new instruments for conventional music, and instruments for new and avant garde forms. The article lists some of the new instrument designers in France. Croset’s remarks on the past, present, and future of musical exploration are also reprinted. Historical and practical concerns impacting communication, research, learning and innovation are discussed.
“Great Instruments #9: The Medica Musica” by Enoch Helm, aka Michael Gowan. 1 page; 2 drawings.
(Humor) Reprint of an article on little-known instruments from The Swallowtail Jig, a newsletter of the Columbine Hammer Dulcimer Society. The brief stories tell of stone bells played by Egyptian pharaohs and pipes with healing powers.
VOLUME 2 #6, APRIL 1987
Letters. 2 pages.
Further comments by Ivor Darreg describing his experiences and writings on developing curved keyboard layouts for piano and stringed instruments. He also discusses and the constraints of established practices, with reference to the Clutsam Keyboard discussed in his earlier short article (EMI Volume 2 #5) “Piano On the Half Shell”. [Additional keywords: ergonomics, intervals, Megalyra, patents]
“The Musical-Acoustical Development of the Violin Octet” by Carleen M. Hutchins. 4 pages; 1 photo; 1 graph.
The author describes the impetus, research, design, and construction of a set of violin-type instruments capable of carrying the timbre and tone of the violin family into seven other pitch ranges — one at approximately each half octave from the double bass to an octave above the violin. Hutchins is a central figure in the Catgut Acoustical Society and began this project in 1956. Among many people who helped are composer Henry Brant at Bennington College, and the violin maker Fred Dautrich. Issues of wood resonance and air resonance; f-holes; string and body length relative to fingering patterns are explained and also charted in the graph, along with descriptions of the instruments’ sound properties. [Additional keywords: cellos, double bass, consort, fiddles, soundboards, violas]
“More Gourds” by Bart Hopkin. 7 pages. 11 photos; 5 drawings.
Introduction to articles on gourd-resonated instruments written by Tony Pizzo, Matthew Finstrom, Lucinda Ellison, and Larry Sherman. This is a follow-up to the article on Minnie Black (Volume 2 #3). Contact information for each builder-writer is also provided. [Additional keywords: The American Gourd Society, resonators, natural materials]
“Mbiras” by Lucinda Ellison. 1 1/2 pages. 3 photos; 1 drawing.
The author makes finely crafted and decorated kalimbas, shakeres, drums, and bamboo flutes. Her main focus is the African thumb piano, also known as the kalimba or mbira. The gourd resonators have soundboards made of African woods: Mahogany, Padauk, or Ebony. A drawing diagrams the various and flexible tuning arrangements of the nickel plated keys, or tines. [Additional keywords: The American Gourd Society, resonators, natural materials]
“Four Gourd Resonated Instruments” by Tony Pizzo. 1 1/2 pages. 4 photos; 2 drawings.
The author specializes in the design of available-material world instruments. Design and construction of the Indian Tamboura, Double Strung Bow, Berimbau, and the Giant Bow inspired by Bill and Mary Buchen, is described. Drawings diagram the design of the tamboura bridge and the double string bow. The latter is traditionally mouth-resonated. [Additional keywords: The American Gourd Society, mouth bows, javari, resonators, natural materials]
“Balafon, Vina & Mvet” by Matthew Finstrom. 2 1/2 pages. 4 photos; 2 drawings.
The author is a performer and builder of traditional instruments inspired by Minnie Black’s folk instruments. The Mvet is type of stick zither or harp found in Cameroon. Design and construction of the Harp Vina is similar to the sitar. It has tuning pegs for five double strings and the gourd resonators are part of the original design in this ancient Asian Indian instrument. [Additional keywords: The American Gourd Society, natural materials]
“The Oxford Gourd Ensemble: A Dispersed and Continuing Conceptual Piece with Occasional Site-Specific performances” by Larry Sherman. 3 pages. 3 photos.
The author is a performer, educator, and builder interested in cognitive theory. The article describes the theoretical sources and conceptual basis for his performance group. The group rarely functions literally as a performance ensemble, but rather is a kind of social and conceptual extension of the ensemble concept. [Additional keywords: Minnie Black, The American Gourd Society, resonators, natural materials]
Book review: Leonardo Da Vinci As a Musician, by Emanuel Winternitz. 1 1/2 pages.
Review of the first scholarly book on the musical side of Da Vinci’s work. It examines the times he lived in, accounts of his contemporaries, his personal notebooks, and sketches; some predate instruments and methods that were realized centuries later. These are full of ideas, theories on acoustics, performance, and instrument designs. Much of his attention was devoted to designing the mechanics of the Viola Organista, a bowed string keyboard instrument, apparently never realized. [Additional keywords: drawings, mechanisms, organology]
Recording review: The Way I See It and You’ve Got the Option by Ernie Altohff & Rainer Linz. 1/2 page.
Review of a cassette recording by Australian artists Ernie Althoff and Rainer Linz. The recording combines spoken text with a random music machine, an automatic, motorized percussion device that sounds kitchen utensils, and toy instruments, among other non-musical objects.