Volumes 3-4 (1987-1989)
This page contains synopses of articles appearing in the Experimental Musical Instruments journal, volumes 3 and 4.
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VOLUME 3, #1, JUNE 1987
“Letters” pages. 3 photos, 1 drawing.
Hal Rammel cites a source for musical saws. Ivor Darreg responds to questions about reed instruments, continuous controllers for electronic instruments, raised in the EMI’s last editorial. Francois Baschet addresses destructive communication, standing waves, and progressive waves for tuning instruments. Tom Reed talks about his 6-6 keyboard layout. Michael Meadows on glass harmonicas and fipple pipes. Sieman Terpstra offers a solution for the problem of symmetry with the 6-6 layout. [Additional keywords: variable capacitors, Ondes Martenot, Trautonium, ribbon controllers, variable resistors]
“Hybrid Instruments Designed and Built by Ken Butler” by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages; 5 photos.
Butler builds fully playable electric guitars from found objects and commonly available materials. Their striking visual content is derived from the electric guitar as a potent cultural icon. However eccentric, their construction always emphasizes quality of musical and sculptural execution. A recent exhibition catalogue is available from the artist. [Additional keywords: Hybrid Visions, readymades, collage]
“The Evolving Natural History of the Wall Harp” by Sylvia and Robert Chapman.1 page; 1 photo.
A short history and how-to about a one-string instrument made and played by sharecroppers in the Southern United States. [Additional keywords: folk instruments, blues, bottle neck slide, monochords]
“Slide Whistles” by Bart Hopkin 4 pages; 1 photo, 6 diagrams, 1 drawing.
Vigorous promotion of an underestimated variable pitch instrument with a husky or breathy tone, along with details of the many and various ways they can be made, tuned, and played. [Additional keywords: fipple instruments, air columns, calibrations, slides, childrens' instruments]
“Kayenian Musical Instruments” by H. Barnard 2 pages; 3 photos, 2 tables
A series of instruments using just-intonation described in the form of a story about an “ancient culture” in an imaginary country called the “Kayenian Imperium.” Some of the instruments are stringed, such as the streemo, pluiging, and abrool. Some electronic organ instruments are also described. The article opens with an explanation of how the keyboard layout facilitates its 19-tone just-tuning. [Additional keywords: frets, hybrid instruments]
“Wind Suck, A Sound Sculpture” by Yehuda Yannay and Stephen Pevnick. 1 and1/4 pages; 1 photo, 2 diagrams.
Description of the design and construction of an interactive musical instrument displayed at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1985. It uses flowing air resonance with electronic amplification, and electrical-mechanical wind propulsion systems (industrial vacuum cleaners). Diagrams detail the coupling of flexible plastic tubing to exhaust stacks and the blower. Microphones are also used in its construction and it lends itself to ensemble playing. [Additional keywords: drones, wind socks, sound installations]
“Organizations and Periodicals”. 3/4 page.
The National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians (NAPBIRT) based in Normal, Illinois has an annual convention and newsletter, Technicom. Membership, convention and contact information provided.
“Books & Recordings”. 1 page.
Making Music: Contemporary Musical Instruments and Sound Crafted in California, review of the exhibit catalog and accompanying cassette. [Additional keywords: exhibitions, curating, galleries, installations]
VOLUME 3, #2, AUGUST 1987
“Letters” 1 page; 1 photo.
On the topic of continuous-strip pitch controllers, Phillips tells of a PAIA Electronic synthesizer kit with a built-in ribbon controller. Tony Pizzo announces two reference books, Susan Caust Farell’s Dictionary of Contemporary American Musical Instruments, and Paul Berliner’s Soul of Mbira. Blake Mitchell argues for the efficacy of the 6-6 keyboard layout in terms of physical space that the keys occupy. [Additional keywords: marimbas, glissandi, Ondes Martenot, mallets]
“The Sound Garden Exhibit In Tokyo” by Leo Tadagawa. 3 pages; 9 photos.
Review of environmental sound sculptures and devices shown at the Striped Museum of Art in 1987 by fourteen artists. Their enjoyment harkens back to natural sounds of the Japanese Suikinkutsu (an unglazed pot buried in the ground into which water drips), or the traditional garden, or Huurin (a glass or iron bell). Some of the pieces take the form interactive sound installations, others straddle the differences of sculpture and musical instruments, some use electronics while others do not. A catalog is available. [Additional keywords: nature sounds, wind chimes, available materials, sound art, games]
“Modular instrument Systems” by Bob Phillips. 3 pages.
The composer, builder, and author puts forth the concept of modularity, a special approach to the physical placement of pitches on instruments. Modular design enables the layout of pitches to be flexible and facilitates playing techniques by making the selection and sequence of pitches easier. The article addresses practical issues of capability, accuracy, and cost. (With footnotes.) [Additional keywords: Harry Partch, ergonomics]
“The Trumpet Marine” by Michael Meadows 2 1/2 pages; 3 photos, 2 drawings.
Brief discussion of the history, playing techniques, and construction of this bowed monochord, also known as the tromba marina, trumscheit, and nun’s fiddle. A Renaissance instrument that uses a peculiar buzzing bridge. Made for playing harmonics, gave it a distinct brassy, trumpet-like timbre. Strings inside the body enable sympathetic vibrations to effect the sound. [Additional keywords: early instruments, nodes, bridges, tuning pegs]
“‘Au Ni Mako” by Bart Hopkin. 1 1/2 pages; 1 drawing.
One of the simplest traditional instruments, the “stamping tube” is a hollow tube that produces sound when struck against a surface. Usually made of bamboo or wood, these idiophones are found in Asia, the Pacific region, South America and the Caribbean, and Africa. The article describes construction, playing techniques, and history in the various regions and cultures that it used. [Additional keywords: ethnomusicology, world music, air columns, Trinidad, Solomon Islands, percussion, Carnival Music, drums]
“Organizations and Periodicals”. 1/1/2 pages; 1 drawing.
The Society for Ethnomusicology, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is one the most prominent societies in this field of scholarship. The author describes its history and problematics of the science. The SEM Newsletter is critiqued, with membership, convention and contact information provided. [Additional keywords: anthropology, archaeology, associations, musicology, research, scholarly journals, world music]
VOLUME 3, #3, OCTOBER 1987
“Letters” 1 1/2 pages; 2 photos.
Richard Waters offers two “Gravity adjusters” albums. A picture of Bob Phillips’ Twomey, a 70cc syringe that makes a fine slide whistle.
“Editorial” by Bart Hopkin. 1/2 page; 1 drawing.
This request to the readership for help on topics regarding strange and rare instruments and interesting sounds is useful as jog the imagination. List of scintillating effects and topics: phase shifting, pitch wavering, volume swells from swung trumpets and spinning bells; The Pyrophone first invented by Georges Frederic Eugene Kastner in 1873, using flames to activate an air column; the Tang Koa bamboo chime operated by waterpower; leaf and grass oboes; Banda Mocha ensemble from Equador; underwater instruments.
“Structures Sonores: Instruments of Bernard and Francois Baschet” by Bart Hopkin. 6 1/2 pages; 1 photo, 11 drawings and diagrams.
An informative and extended look at the fertile explorations, and particular acoustic design innovations, of the Baschet brothers. They have been designing and building concert instruments, sound sculpture, children’s instruments, sound environments, and large-scale public works since the 1950s, receiving much recognition and many commissions in France. Their system of four construction elements applies to all instrument materials: vibrating elements; energizing elements; modulating devices; amplifying devices. Transmission and isolation of vibrations, sound radiators, and reverberant devices are discussed. Numerous diagrams and illustrations of the creative, imaginative, visually striking, and often humorous instruments make this article an excellent teaching tool. [Additional keywords: balloons, bridges, classroom, construction methods, conduction, dancers, glass rods, guitars, high impedance, low impedance, resonators, metal rods, percussion, steel bars, threaded rods, tuning weights]
“The Slide French Horn: ‘Funnybone’” by Ray L. Kraemer 2 pages; 3 photos.
Design, construction, and playing techniques of the Funnybone, combining a French horn bell with a trombone slide. To allow the bell to clear the slide an upward slant and bracing were necessary, which resulted in better projection than a conventional trombone. It has a sound that can be compared to a trumpet and flugelhorn. It fits well in modern jazz structures and is easy to play for a trombonist or lower brass player. [Additional keywords: blowing resistance, horns, tuning devices, slide positions, trumpets]
“Pedagogy, Santa Fe Research: Some of Their Work” by Marcia Mikulak 5 1/2 pages; 9 photos.
The author describes the experiences and discoveries that led to The Santa Fe Research center, where children and adults pursue their interests through an exploratory approach. Her studies at The Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College led to an interest in alternative and interactive learning models. In the second half of the article she describes her teaching experience with children and the instruments, with photos, they made from available materials: violins, harps, guitar-like instruments, marimbas, and a steel drum. A sidebar reports on the surprising test results of Mikulak’s work with learning disabled children. [Additional keywords: education, learning disabilities, resonators, strings, Robert Ashley, Gardner Jencks, Pauline Oliveros]
“Books and Recordings: Long String Installations”. 1 1/2 pages.1 drawings.
Review of a combination 3 LP set and full-sized book from Het Apollohuis, the now defunct center operated by Dutch sound artist Paul Panhuysen. The over-sized book documents the architectural aspects of the installations by Panhuysen and Johan Goehart with many large, clear, explicit, and attractive black and white photographs. Accompanying texts and diagrams describe just under forty installations. The introduction was written by Arnold Dreyblatt. A longer text by Panhuysen details the ideas and processes behind the work. This review details some aspects of the construction and performances. [Additional keywords: acoustics, Ellen Fullman, Eindhoven, Holland, Netherlands, nylon monofilament, environmental sound, space, public works]
VOL. 3, #4 DECEMBER 1987
“Letters” 2 pages; 3 photos, 3 diagrams.
Tom Nunn in response Bob Phillips’ article on modular instrument design provides diagrams for his own electroacoustic Bug, which lends itself to various layouts due to its geometric shape. Ivor Darreg critiques the Kurzweil design philosophy and demo tape of sampled grand piano sounds. Illustrations of a slide whistle made out of a bicycle pump by Jacques Dudon and extended harmonic series Fipple Pipes by Denny Genovese.
“The Pyrophone Explained” by Michael Meadows. 1/2 page.
A description of the physics behind its sound, also described in William Bragg’s book “World of Sound.” The Pyrophone, first invented by Georges Frederic Eugene Kastner in 1873, activates an air column with a gas flame. This article, with additional materials, is among the articles posted in the Experimental Musical Instruments website at http://www.windworld.com/emi.
“Tata and His Veena” by David Courtney. 4 pages; 3 photos, 3 drawings.
An article about the author’s discovery of an elderly East Indian musician, Tata, who plays a Kamakshi Veena, a self-designed and -built violin made of bamboo, a bowl resonator with animal skin membrane, horse hair, sticks, resin, colored paper, cardboard, and string. The article pays much attention to the diverse economic and cultural realities of India, and this specific region, as it does the builder’s highly inventive construction techniques. [Additional keywords: Asian, ethnomusicology, folk music, indigenous music, lutes, lyres, Hyderabad, bowed instruments]
“Bamboo” by Bart Hopkin 3 pages
An introductory to Darrell DeVore’s following article on how this natural material lends itself so easily to the making of a great variety of instruments: flutes, necks for string instruments, lamella for mouth harps, drums, trumpets, single and double woodwind reeds, panpipes, bows, marimbas, rattles, wind and water chimes, aeolian pipes, guiros and scrapers, stamping tubes, and many others. Various species, the growth and cultivation, and physical properties of bamboo are described. [Additional keywords: Boo, Calungs, climate, Sansas, xylophones, thumb pianos, Chinese instruments, Japanese instruments, Asian instruments, Phyllostachys, Javanese instruments, didjeridoos, didjeridus, clarinets, oboes, violins, fiddles, Harry Partch, reed cane, zithers]
“Bamboo Is Sound Magic” by Darrell DeVore. 3 pages; 4 photos, 4 drawings.
The author describes his first-hand experience, the ancient universality of this material, and his own constructions. Among these are the bootoo, a stamped idiophone. Bootoo flutes, bootoo percussion, listening-tubes, singing-tubes, membranoflutes, and the Bambow spirit catcher are described with accompanying photos and drawings. [Additional keywords: aerophones, bird songs, Chinese instruments, earphones, Japanese instruments, Asian instruments, tone holes, reed cane]
“The Triolin” by Hal Rammel. 1/2 page; 2 drawings.
Brief description of the author’s instrument, a hybrid of the nail violin and the waterphone. A three-sided wooden resonator attached to a chair leg, with a circular arrangement of perpendicular rods, so that the pitches can be spun around as it is bowed, for unpredictable phrases and harmonies — automatistic musicking. [Additional keywords: random tunings]
“Organizations and Periodicals”. 1/2 page.
Glass Music International, an organization based in Loveland, Colorado promoting all forms of glass music. They publish a newsletter titled Glass Music World, and are planning a conference and festival. (Since this article was written, they have had success with several such festivals.) The newsletter covers technical topics, scores, membership profiles, and scholarly research. Contact information is provided. [Additional keywords: musicology, publications, research, scholarly journals]
“Books: The EFNIR Catalog”. 2 pages.
Review of the catalog to the Exhibition/Festival for New Instrumental Resources I & II. It took place in May of 1979 and 1980 and was co-sponsored by the University of California at San Diego’s Center for Music Experiment, and Interval Foundation. A diverse group of 25 contributors are presented in its 40 pages. Among them Paul Dresher, David Dunn, Jonathon Glasier, Pauline Oliveros, and Arthur Frick. [Additional keywords: associations, professional, publications, research, scholarly journals, sound art exhibitions]
“Tinkololin On the Head” by Bart Hopkin. 1 page; 3 photos.
A pictorial of sound helmets and headbands created by Leo Tadagawa. Sound is communicated when the wearer walks. Aluminum tubes, beads, and a propeller device are attached to the headgear. These instruments appeared in the “Sound Garden Exhibit in Tokyo,” reviewed by Tadagawa in EMI Vol. III, #2. [Additional keywords: sound art exhibitions, clothing, wearable instruments]
VOLUME 3 #5, FEBRUARY 1988
“Letters” 2 pages; 3 photos.
Jonathon L. Haas proposes the world’s largest timpani made of bowls. Three photos of Pierre Jean Croset’s new instruments made of plexi-glass: a water drum, an electroacoustic kalimba, and a carbon-fiber neck altuglas guitar.
“Jacque Dudon’s Music of Water and Light” by Tom Nunn. 6 photos; 3 drawings.
This French inventor has made instruments that use five principles of water: percussion, friction, modulation of resonant objects, water-forced air pressure, and modulation of resonant air volumes. Some of the instruments are named the Sprigoviel, Aquacelesta, Aquavina, Orque de Bac a Fluers, Tambour-Oiseau-Harmonique, the Aquatic Synthesizer, and the Arc a eau. Some instruments combine two or principles like the Flute a Mouettes, or “Seagull Flute.” Nunn briefly describes each with accompanying photos. The builder’s Photosonic Synthesizer, a light siren, is given two pages of description with pictures of the rotating disks whose computer-generated patterns determine pitch and timbre. Dudon is also president of an organization called l’Atelier d’Exploration Harmonique that researches experimental musical instruments near Marseilles. [Additional keywords: bamboo flutes, bellows, drawings, drips, environmental instruments, electroacoustic, hurdy-gurdy, electro-mechanics, hydraulics, graphics, optics, rain organs, solar cells, photoelectric cells, vessels, waterfalls, waterphone, waveforms]
“The Custom Made Chromatic Flute” by Jim Schmidt. 3 pages; 1 photo, 1 diagram.
The author describes how he conceived, acquired materials for, and constructed an orchestral flute for improved playability and tone. Some modifications involved the lip plate and resulting embouchure; others relate to the number and joint of the tube assembly. Improvements for fingering, as well as simplification and lightening of the mechanics are described. A diagram demonstrates the fingering system. [Additional keywords: woodwinds, saxophones, keywork, silver tubing, tone holes]
“Travel Instruments: The Grand Piano In a Marching Band” by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages.
Part one of a three-part article looking attempts to render standard instruments more transportable. This article is a broad historical overview; parts two and three each focus current designers.
“Traveling With the Traviello” by Ernest Nussbaum. 2 pages; 2 photos.
One of two instrument designers who have developed a portable “travel cello.” Issues concerning acoustical properties and functional design are described through several prototypes. Use of transducers, string length, various types of wood for the body, neck, and fingerboards are among the many problems that are solved. [Additional keywords: string tension, packing, shipping]
“The Birth of the Packaxe” by Francis Kosheleff. 3 pages, 3 photos, several diagrams
The third of a three-part article on designing transportable instruments. The solution for more portable guitars and other string instruments is the design of a folding neck, hinged at the body with an invisible locking mechanism. Issues and solutions concerning mounting and fingerboard action are addressed and illustrated. [Additional keywords: balalaika, tuning machines, packing, pegs, shipping, string tension]
VOLUME 3 #6, APRIL 1988
Dennis James, Francois Baschet, and Leo Tadagawa provide quotes and notes about the Pyrophone. Bob Phillips answers Liz Was’ question about her sighting of a percussion aerophone, a Tablita with design and playing details. Minnie Black, gourd instrument inventor and performer, and founder of the Gourd Band is making several radio and television appearances. [Additional keywords: Burning Harmonica, clay drums, Chemical Harmonica, gas organ, American Gourd Society, Palm Pipes, Waterdrums]
“Alternative tunings on Fretted Instruments–Refretting and Other Approaches” by Bart Hopkin with Mark Rankin 3 pages; 2 photos, 1 drawing.
An overview on the design issues and techniques for removing old frets, how to substitute new ones in accordance with various alternative tuning systems. References and sources for fretting tables are provided. Movable frets are described, and interchangeable fretboards are among many other design possibilities offered in this article. [Additional keywords: equal temperaments, just intonation, fingering, fingerboards, fretting patterns, fretless guitars, sliding steel, string instruments, Enharmonic Guitar, microtonal scales, modifications, bridges, necks, experimental scales]
“Refretting: Comments from Ivor Darreg” 1 page; 1 photo.
Ivor Darreg (now deceased) was first among contemporary builders to begin refretting for microtonal scales. He comments on the practical fingering and tuning problems of just intonation guitars due to fret placement and spacing, notably with 22-tone and 34-tone equal temperaments. [Additional keywords: fingering, fingerboards, fretting patterns, fretless guitars, string instruments, Enharmonic Guitar, microtonal scales, bridges, necks, experimental scales]
“Retrofitting for Non-Twelve Scales” by Buzz Kimball. 1 photo; 4 drawings, 1 table.
Tools and materials, alternative equal temperaments, choosing an instrument for refretting, removing old frets and preparing for new ones, installation, leveling and adjusting, replacing and inlaying a fingerboard are the topics covered in this practical article. A fretting chart and an algorithm for calculating fret tables not given in the article are provided. [Additional keywords: equal temperaments, fingering, fingerboards, fretting patterns, fretless guitars, string instruments, microtonal scales, just intonation, bridges, necks, experimental scales]
“The Overtone Series? The Harmonic Series as a Special Case, and Some Thoughts About Instruments with Inharmonic Overtone Spectra” by Bart Hopkin. 3 1/2 pages.
Based on the observation that many musical instruments do not naturally or automatically produce harmonic overtones, the article begins a general overview of overtone patterns and a discussion the nonharmonic patterns that exist in many instruments. The second part is reconsideration of how the ear responds to an irregular overtone series, and how these idiosyncratic relationships can function musically. A sidebar details the overtone series and its appearance in musical instruments. [Additional keywords: equal temperaments, fundamentals, harmony, idiophones, just intonation, tunings, tones, timbral, timbres, vibrations, frequency, frequencies, pitch, phasing, cancellation, partials, psychoacoustics, mathematics, theory]
“The Gravichord” by Bob Grawi. 4 pages; 5 photos, 2 drawings.
In discussing the authors instrument based on the western African kora, the article describes the author’s music and the circumstances that led to the instrument’s creation. Intermediary versions of the instrument were made of fiberglass and wood, and included metal kalimba keys on its bridge. Later it came to have 24 strings spanning a 3 1/2 octave range on a light, welded steel frame, amplified with a piezoelectric pickup. Many other features of its tuning and construction are detailed. Sounding like an electric harp; its kora-like divided string layout allows both hands to play its diatonic scales. Playing technique allows for conscious control of seemingly random clusters of notes; melodic and rhythmic results that are complex, intricate, and unexpected. The instrument was patented and is marketed by his company, White Bear Enterprises. [Additional keywords: lutes, West Africa, Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, bridge designs]
“Books and Recordings”. 1 page; 2 drawings.
A review of Percussion, String and Wind Instruments by Christopher Swartz published by Perimeter Records. The homebuilt orchestra features 30 instruments that were built by the author using available, commonplace materials, and are described with accompanying diagrams and photos useful for anyone interested in building their own versions of these percussion and guitar instruments. [Additional keywords: scrap metal, gongs, how-to, reference books]
VOLUME 4 #1, JUNE 1988
“Fourth Anniversary Editorial” by Bart Hopkin. 1 3/4 pages; no photos.
A summary of past achievements, editorial perspective, and future prospects for EMI.
“Letters”. 2 pages; no photos.
Daniel Levitan, Michael Meadows, and Ivor Darreg offer additional notes on contemporary practice on marimba and vibraphone tuning, the overtone series and the validity of inharmonic instruments. Rick Sanford responds to Jonathan Hass’ request for information on experimental timpani. [Additional keywords: harmonics, xylophones, free bars, mallets, partials, chords, membranophones]
“A Harmonic ensemble” by Michael Meadows. 2 1/2 pages; 1photo, 1 diagram, 1 table.
Meadows wrote about his trumpet marine in EMI, Volume 3 #2, August. 1987, which is one of several instruments designed to articulate the pitches of the harmonic series. In the current article he describes the remainder of the instruments in the group: they consist of aerophones, Didjeridoos, notched flutes, fipple pipes, reed pipes, and stringed instruments. He also describes some principles of timbre and harmonics.[Additional keywords: partials, fundamentals, summation tones, difference tones, nodes, antinodes, edge-tones]
“Music For Homemade Instruments” by Skip La Plante. 6 pages; 2 photos, 3 drawings.
Music For Homemade Instruments is a composers’ collective based in New York City that invents, builds, composes for and performs on instruments — mostly idiophones — which were made from the found objects and trash of the city. Most of them copy world instruments. Styrofoam boxes are used extensively as resonators. “Waterfall” was a large installation that used water falling on objects to create its sound, and was shown at P.S. 1 in New York (1977), and the Capital Children’s Museum, Washington D.C. (1983). [Additional keywords: Hemholtz resonator, metallophones, gongs, gamelan, pipes, PVC, musical saw, juice jars, cardboard tubes, cans, EMT, conduit, flutes, tubes]
“More Baschet Sounds: A Mostly Pictorial Presentation of Architectural works, Museum Installations and Educational Instruments Built by the Baschet Brothers” by Bart Hopkin and Francois Baschet. 4 pages; 6photos.
This photo spread is a complement to the October 1987 EMI article [VOL. 3, #3] that focused on the mechanical principles and specific acoustic systems employed in the vast array of Bernard and Francois Baschet’s work. They have been designing and building concert instruments, sound sculpture, children’s instruments, sound environments, and large-scale public works since the 1950s. Their system applies four basic construction elements to all instrument materials: vibrating elements; energizing elements; modulating devices; amplifying devices. Their work addresses the design issues concerning the transmission and isolation of vibrations of steel and glass rods, sheet metal sound radiators and reverberant devices. Along with musical playgrounds, a musical water fountain and clock tower are pictured. [Additional keywords: balloons bridges classroom construction methods conduction creativity dancers efficiency, energy loss, France, functional, guitars, imagination, low impedance resonators, nodes, percussion instruments, bars, threaded, tuning weights, scales, surface area]
VOLUME 4 #2, AUGUST 1988
“Instruments of Shell, Tusk, Bone & Horn” by Bart Hopkin. 6 pages, 5 drawings, 8 photos.
An introductory overview of animal-derived materials in instrument making, both fresh and fossil. Information on sources and costs, cultural and historical background, physical and acoustic properties of these materials are covered. The types described include ivory tusks of elephant, mastodon, warthog, walrus, and hippopotamus. Whaletooth, narwhal tusks, conch shells, and turtle shells are also listed. The types of instruments these materials are used for include flutes, rattles, fiddles, marimbas, harps, lyres, resonators, soundboards, and trumpets.
Ivor Darreg gives several bits of general news and advice on tuning, frettings, unorthodox microtonal scales, with specifics on tuning steel conduit (or EMT) tubing marimbas. [Additional keywords: equal temperaments, octaves, metallophones]
“Bone Music by the Buchens & Bob Natalini” by Bart Hopkin 2 pages; 6 photos.
This photo spread shows Bob Natalini’s untitled cow jaw bone object, which incorporates electronics. Four instruments made by Bill and Mary Buchen are shown. These were made from skulls, cowhorns, and antlers, and are named: Flying Beaver Rattles, Skullimba, Treble Elk Harp, and the Rosehorn Marimba. They performed with these in the Boneworks Ensemble from 1976 to 1981. [Additional keywords: kalimbas]
“A Cowhorn Fipple Flute” by John Jordan, 1 1/2 pages; 1 photo.
This article describes how the author solved the problem of making a reed instrument that sounds louder, and has a much wider pitch range than the average fipple flute. His version is 36 decibels louder than a soprano recorder. Playing technique, fingering, and construction are explained.
“Maurice Ravel and the Lutheal” by Hugh Davies. 3 pages; 1 diagram.
In the early half of the 20th century very few composers considered using new instruments in their compositions. Among the few who did was Maurice Ravel, who included the sarrusaphone, Ondes Martenot, and the lutheal. The lutheal is a modified piano developed around 1918 by Georges Cloeteus in Brussels or Paris. It uses jacks for different nodes on the strings, and has additional registrations, or stops, for its harpsichord, harp-lute, and cimbalon timbres. Since only one restored lutheal remains in existence, this very detailed article on its mechanical design also describes the detective work involved in tracing patents in order to learn about the inventor and his instrument. The author himself is one of the few British musicians who started to build new electroacoustic instruments in the late 1960s, and so the article opens with interesting general insights on the closer links between music and the visual arts, and the field instrument invention. Davies has published many pioneering studies on 20th century electronic instruments, and is a main contributor to the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. [Additional keywords: frames, dampers]
“Books & Recordings” by Bart Hopkin. 1/2 page.
The Vestal Press, a publishing house founded by Harvey Roehl, distributes unusual and hard-to-find materials on early Americana. Its catalog documents the era of late-19th century and early-20th mechanically reproduced music, namely player pianos, but also reed organs, calliopes, and hybrid instruments. They also print a newsletter, the Vestal House Organ, on in-house events and projects. Contact address supplied.
“Bentwood Chalumeau-A Glissando Clarinet” by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages; 2 photos, 2 diagrams.
The author describes the design and construction of a continuous-pitch, valve-less clarinet, named after its 18th century ancestor. In place of toneholes, a slit runs the length of a PVC tube. A bent tongue of springy hardwood is used to cover this open slit to varying degrees. Contact address supplied. [Additional keywords: Leonardo Da Vinci, reeds, weather-stripping]
VOLUME 4 #3, OCTOBER 1988
“The Art of Noises by Luigi Russolo, Translation and Introduction by Barclay Brown” by Tony Pizzo. 6 pages; 1 photo, 1 drawing.
An extended book review of a new English translation of the writings by this early-20th-century Italian Futurist and instrument inventor. Pendragon Press has reprinted Russolo’s first manifesto (written in 1913). Brown’s introduction assembles a great deal of hard-to-find information, covering both its technical and historical aspects. Although his instruments were acoustic, Russolo’s visionary ideas and instruments have been credited with being seminal in the development of electronic music. To realize his conception of a new music – timbres and rhythms that more closely resembled the actual sounds of nature, language, and modern life – Russolo invented, built and performed with a set of instruments he called intonarumori, or noise intoners. No published diagrams or plans of these instruments have survived, and very few recordings exist. Brown’s research reveals that they used mechanical means to produce sound through cranks, levers, wires, and diaphragms enclosed in large boxes. Twelve different types of intonarumori were made. Pizzo also describes them: howlers (ululatori); roarers (rombatori); cracklers (crepitatori); rubbers (stropicciatori); hummers (ronzatore); gurglers (gorgoliatori); hissers; whistlers (sibilatore); bursters (scoppiatore); croakers; rustlers; and, noise harmonium. [Additional keywords: acoustic environment, enharmonic bow, enharmonic piano, R. Murray Schafer, Harry Partch, Dada, Marinetti, musique concrete, industrial music, film, Foley sound effects, surrealism, Spike Jones, Pierre Schaefer]
“Letters” 2 pages; 1 drawing.
Susan Rawcliffe warns of health risks in casual use of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and announces new events relating to her work in ceramic wind instruments. Richard Waters discusses tuning and the difficulty of separating partials of a vibrating body from the resonator; his visual approach to non-traditional and enharmonic tunings and; how water acts to bend tones in his Waterphone. Tim Olsen offers some thoughts on Bart Hopkin’s Bentwood Chalumeau. Pearl Bellinger names additional sources for biblical instruments made from natural materials. A sidebar shows the world’s tiniest slide whistle made by Jeff Kassel from a medical instrument – a 13-gauge trocar. [Additional keywords: conch shells, animal horns, trumpets, tuning systems]
“Dachsophone” by Hans Reichel. 3 pages; 4 photos, 1 drawing.
The author is an avant garde German guitarist and instrument builder. This instrument uses a flat wood stick clamped to an edge of a table, played with a bow. A curved block of wood fitted with guitar frets – named a “dax” – serves as a “mobile” fretboard. A sound-box fitted with contact microphone amplifies its sounds, which span a wide frequency range. The sticks are made of ebony, spruce, Brazil pine, mahogany, cedar, plywood, maple, rosewood, sandal wood, persimmon-wood, and African wenge. Each is shaped differently and has its own “personality.” Reichel also describes their strange, humorous, fierce and/or tender sounds. [Additional keywords: daxophones, improvisations, animal voices]
“Sonorous Metals For the Experimenter” by Rick Sanford. 3pages.
A helpful introduction to the types, properties, prices, risks, machining tools, and sources for various types of metal. Buying metal requires knowledge of a few general machine terms. Other topics: how to visually distinguish different metals at suppliers (including scrap and salvage yards); how to identify various alloys; cutting, drilling, and filing techniques; hand and eye protection. [Additional keywords: wrought iron, brass, copper, aluminum, steel, bronze, corrosion, thunder sheets]
“Bass Marimbas In Just Intonation” by Denny Genovese. 2 1/2 pages. 2 photos; 1 table.
Genovese describes his redwood instruments, which were inspired by the one built by Harry Partch. Collaborating with artist Tim Treadwell, they designed and tuned them according to Partch’s microtonal formula (provided in the article). The article also describes the exciting physical sensation of its low pitches, the tuning process, construction details, the resonators, and the types of mallets they made. [Additional keywords: scales, harmonic series, vibrating bars, xylophones]
“Addendum To Denny Genovese’s Bass Marimbas Article” by Tim Treadwell. 1/2 page
The author provides additional information about his collaboration with Genovese; the equal importance or synthesis of painting, sculptor and sound to his work.
“Organizations & Periodicals”. 1 page.
Report on the activities, journals, and newsletters of two organizations devoted to the world of natural sound. Nature Sounds Society is based in Oakland, California. It is concerned with the appreciation and preservation of the sounds of nature, especially animal sounds. Discounting ornithology groups with an interest in birdsongs, it is the only membership organization of its sort in North America. Bioacoustics: The International Journal of Animal Sound and Its Recording is a new academic periodical from Hampshire, England devoted to the scientific study of animal communications and wildlife recordings, and related topics. Subscription, memberships, and contact information provided. [Additional keywords: archives, acoustic ecology, conservation, environments, sound libraries, World Soundscape Project]
VOLUME 4 #4, DECEMBER 1988
“Sound From Stretched Membranes” by Bart Hopkin. 2 1/2 pages; 4 drawings.
Opening thoughts for the feature articles contained in this issue on membranophones, primarily devoted to drums and drumheads, but also including various sound modifiers, transmitters and radiators, vibrational insulators, air reservoirs and blowers, labial reeds, animal skins on string instruments and harps, fiddles, harps, and lutes from South America, Africa and Asia, as well as the intonarumori of Luigi Russolo.
Debbie Suran provides follow-up information on toxic hazards of organic and inorganic materials, from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes and wood, to metals, turpentine, and plastics.
“A Children’s Instruments Workshop” by Bob Philips. 4 pages; 16 drawings, 1 photo.
These sketches and pan-ethnic instrument designs by Philips provide information on simple projects and available materials. The instruments span four categories: aerophones; idiophones, chordophones, and membranophones. They include a vessel flute, funnel trumpet, pan pipes, fipple flute, buzzers and hummers, kalimba, conduit tubalong, nail violin, music bow, cigar box lute, bowed tube zither, cigar box lyre, shipping tube bongos, mirliton, conga, and spinning drum. [Additional keywords: classrooms, schools]
“Congas According to Carraway” by Bart Hopkin. 2 1/2 pages; 1 photo, 1 drawing.
Written in consultation with Jim Carraway, a builder of congas for 20 years, this article details the construction of this well-known Afro-Cuban drum with a brief introductory history. [Additional keywords: skins, rawhide, cowhide, shells, exotic woods]
“The Tabla Puddi” by David Courtney. 4 pages; 2 photos, 7 drawings.
Describes the manufacture of the puddi (drumhead) of the Indian tabla, which is made with multiple layers of skin and an extraordinary technique for adding mass to the center of the membrane, without inhibiting its flexibility. The basic structure, names and function of its parts, and construction are described with the aim of giving enough information to make a tabla puddi. [Additional keywords: drums, skins, charts, hides, shai, danyan, banyan]
“Books & Recordings”. 2 pages.
A short history and biography of Spike Jones, the popular band leader who collected and used duck calls, sirens, and various junk noise makers in his hilarious music. Most of the sounds had irreverent, non-musical associations. His stardom lasted from the 1940s to the early 60s. The article includes a short review of “Spike Jones and His City Slickers,” by Jordan R. Young, published by Disharmony Books, 1982. The book and also a review of the three record set entitled, “Spike Jones: The Craziest Show on Earth.” [Additional keywords: drummers, novelty groups, Vaudeville, slapstick, sound effects]
VOLUME 4 #5, FEBRUARY 1989
“Shape and Form, Contemporary Strings, Part I: Fred Carlson, Francis Kosheleff, Susan Norris, and Clif Wayland” by Bart Hopkin. 8 pages; 9 photos, 6 drawings.
First of a two-part photo and text presentation on the aesthetics of new and traditional string instrument design, highlighting the balance of beauty and function, particularly exotic resonator shapes, multiple necks and bridges, fretboards, saddles, decorative inlays and carving. Pictures and background of a few lesser-known early instruments are included. The brief texts and photos describe a variety of bodies for guitars, dulcimers, lyres, and violins. Shown are hybrid instruments by Susan Norris and Fred Carlson; fiddles, rebec and dulcimers by Clif Wayland; bandura, harp guitar and pyramidulcimer by Francis Kosheleff. Part II appears in Volume 4, #6.
“Letters” 5 pages; 3 drawings.
Charles R. Adams provides additional book titles and comments in response to Tony Pizzo’s review of Luigi Russolo’s “Art of Noises.” Ivor Darreg writes about new scales and tuning devices. Ezra Sims shows his plan to build a 72-notes per octave MIDI keyboard for synthesizer under computer control. Hal Rammel provides additional literary sources on Spike Jones. The editor reprints a paragraph from Rammel’s article on Jones’ junk yard music in the book “Free Spirits: Annals of the Insurgent Imagination.” Peter Fischer offers his experiences on teaching instrument making for children. He details the materials, tools and steps for making a one-string can lute and simple drums, with references to and a diagram of the tuning mechanism of an Ethiopian Krar. [Additional keywords: pedagogy, electric organ, futurism, Jacques Attali, children's instruments, Ernst Bloch, Wassily Kandinsky, rawhide skins]
“More On Fretted Instrument Liberation” by Bart Hopkin. 1/2 page; 1 photo.
This article briefly describes a movable fret system developed by Walter J. Vogt. It has 110 curved fretlets that slide in inserts set into the neck. Their placement makes each string independently tunable, providing new and more precise pitch relationships. [Additional keywords: fretboards, fine tuning]
“Eggshell Instruments” by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages; 2 photos, 1 drawing.
Continuing the series on instruments made from natural materials, Hopkin describes eggshell aerophones: sources and tips on working with chicken, goose, Emu, and ostrich eggs. The article details Robin Goodfellow’s diatonic and chromatic octave sets of single-note egg ocarinas, which are suited to hocketing: the communal music making technique. Goodfellow’s drawing is of a Chinese hsun, hsuan or xun: an egg-shaped vessel flute made of fired clay. [Additional keywords: finger holes, fipple pipes, globular flutes]
“The Sound Spectrum: Pitch Names, Frequencies, and Wavelengths” by Bart Hopkin. 4 pages.
A frequency chart or graph with staff notation, pitch names, pitch standards, frequencies, wavelengths, and the pitch ranges of musical instruments among other common sounds. The accompanying text briefly explains the differences between just and tempered tunings, how to calculate frequencies and wavelengths for pitches not given in the chart. The text also explains the cents system for measuring relative rather tan absolute pitch, the acoustic effects of fundamental frequencies and spectra in musical sounds, and applications for wavelength data. NOTE: This chart had some flaws in it. Improved versions of the chart appears on the EMI Wall Chart, available from the EMI Catalog. Less detailed versions appear in two book, also available from the EMI Catalog: Musical Instrument Design, and Air Columns and Toneholes. [Additional keywords: waveforms, Hemholtz system, tube lengths, microtones, microtonal, octaves, enharmonic, 12-tone equal temperament, scales, spectral, speed of sound]
“Books: Echo”. 1 1/2 pages.
Review of “Echo: Images of Sound” a book edited by sound artist Paul Panhuysen, founder of the Het Apollohuis in Eindoven, The Netherlands. Published in 1987, the book assembles the writing and photos of twenty artists in the diverse field of contemporary sonic arts in Europe and the U.S., some of whom participated in the Echo Festival I held in 1984-85. This review highlights the work and essays of Hans-Karsten Raecke, Jon Rose, Richard Lerman, Horst Rickels, Rik van Iersel, Joop van Braken, Godfried-Willem Raes, and Hugh Davies. [Additional keywords: festivals, catalogs, catalogues, visual arts]
VOLUME 4 #6, APRIL 1989
“Sounds In Clay” by Ward Hartenstein. 3 1/2 pages; 4 photos.
The author offers helpful information about the composition, firing, and physical limitations of clay in its use for making instruments. General tips on making and tuning clay bells are provided, and the photos illustrate his fountain chimes, shaker chimes, and the cym-bell tree. These use bell shaped bowls of gradating sizes. His clay marimbas use carefully tuned stoneware bars mounted over a large ceramic vase or resonating chamber. The article also provides details on accurate overtone tuning of the ceramic free bars. [Additional keywords: ceramic idiophones, xylophones, glocken-speils, vibraphones, lithophones]
“Letters” 3 pages.
Richard Waters, inventor of the waterphone, seeks sound designers who can build a small device for boats at sea that will scare whales away from the boat’s projected path to prevent collisions. Hal Rammel observes that the wide ranging interest in instrument making touches on a deeper desire to transform the world, and recommends two books by Christopher Small: “Music-Society-Education” and “Music of the Common tongue: Survival and Celebration in Afro-American Music.” Bart Hopkin replies to questions on the inclusion of 12-tone equal temperament versus other systems in the frequency chart in Volume 4, issue #5. He also answers questions about doped cloth for drumheads and coconut shells, while relaying information from Tony Pizzo. [Additional keywords: imagination, nature sounds]
“The Nineteen-Tone Instruments of W.A. (Jim) Piehl and Tillman Schafer” by John Chalmers. 3 pages. 2 photos; 4 diagrams.
An article about the microtonal instruments of two San Francisco musician-builders inspired by Joseph Yasser’s book, “A Theory of Evolving Tonality.” The design, construction and keyboard pitch patterns of their pneumatic 19-tone pipe organ is detailed. Diagrams illustrate the extra nomenclature, positions and colors of the keys. At the time of this article’s writing the instruments were being restored by Jonathon Glasier, Ivor Darreg, Erv Wilson, Buzz Kimball, Kraig Grady, and Scott Hackerman. A sidebar describes the correspondences between 12 and 19-tone equal temperament. Piehl’s ten-string Hawiian and electric brake drum guitars are briefly described, as are Schafer’s 19 and 31-tone guitars. Schafer also made an electronically actuated microtonal metallophone that used an electric typewriter keyboard and solenoids to propel the strikers. [Additional keywords: fingerings, diatonic notes, timbral stops, pedalboards, accidentals, flats and sharps]
“Shape And Form, Contemporary Strings, Part II: William Eaton, Steve Klein, and Linda Manzer” by Bart Hopkin and Linda Manzer. 7 pages; 12 photos.
Second of a two-part photo presentation on the aesthetics of new and traditional string instrument design, highlighting the balance of beauty and function, particularly exotic resonator shapes, multiple necks and bridges, fretboards, saddles, decorative inlays and carving. Linda Manzer’s text describes a multi-neck Pikasso guitar she built for Pat Metheny, and others for Bruce Cockburn and Angel Parra. Her guitars use Fishman or piezo pickups, and the sitar-style buzzing bridge on her eight-string drone guitar sounds like a koto. A variety of bride designs, an asymmetric bridge and foreshortened upper and lower bouts typify the Klein steel string guitars. Eaton’s designs have an affinity with ancient instruments, mythological motifs, as well as forms and shapes from the natural world. [Additional keywords: Jean-Claude Larrivee, harp guitars]
“The Sink: A Found Object Idiophone” by Rick Sanford. 1/2 page.
The author and composer describes the acoustic properties and uses for a stainless steel hospital or restaurant sink. It originally featured in Sanford’s percussion compositions, which he describes, and he also describes the various sounds achieved by playing it with mallets, sticks, or bows. [Additional keywords: ready-made instruments, scrap metal, junkyard percussion]
“Books: Three Encyclopedic Sources”. 2 pages; 1 drawing.
A review of books that present the world of musical instruments in a comprehensive fashion. The three featured here were more or less up to date and in print at the time of this review, global in scope, presented in convenient formats, and serve as practical desktop references. They are: “Musical Instruments of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia,” published by Facts On File; “Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary” by Sibyl Marcuse, published by W.W. Norton & Co.; “The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments” edited by Stanley Sadie, published by Grove’s Dictionaries of Music, Inc. (At the time of this writing, the Grove’s Dictionary and “Musical Instruments of the World” have remained in print, while the Marcuse dictionary has gone out of print.)