Volumes 7-8 (1991-1993)

Last modified 8-13-2009
This page contains synopses of articles appearing in the Experimental Musical Instruments journal, Volumes 7and 8. 
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VOLUME 7 #1, JUNE 1991

Letters & Notes. 2 pages.
In response to an article by David Myers’ feedback systems, Henry Lowengard notes the interactive possibilities of pitch shifting devices and harmonizers. Francisco Lopez sends a note on his city soundscape compositions. Ivor Darreg sends a note on refretting following Bill Sethare’s article on 19-tone equal temperament for guitar. Listing of EMI’s newest cassette tape containing recordings of featuring instruments that were featured in EMI Volume 6. Articles and interviews featured in the Canadian music journal Musicworks issue #49 are described, particularly “Sounds of Invention,” an exhibition of new instruments and their builders: Sylvia Bendza, Bill Napier Hemy, Gordan Monihan, Ushio Torakai, Nicolas Collins, among others.

“Computer Control for Acoustic Instruments” by Bart Hopkin, with Alec Bernstein and Alistar Riddell. 3 1/2 pages; 6 photos.
An article on computer-activated instruments with an emphasis on electro-mechanically-played pianos. Its historical overview mentions various manufacturers, composers, instruments, and inventors, such as Conlan Nancarrow, Disklavier, the Marantz Pianocorder, Richard Teitelbaum, and Trimpin. Following the overview is a closer look at the work of three composers, Alec Bernstein with Daniel Carney, who work and perform together under the name Aesthetic Research Ensemble, and Alistar Riddell’s Meta-Action project. *(An earlier article in EMI, August 1990 also focused on player pianos.)* [Additional keywords: microcomputers, piano rolls, keyboard, programming, MIDI, damper, hammer, controllers, software, solenoids, interactive systems, machine control, digital performance]

“The StarrBoard” by John Starrett. 3 pages; 4 photos, 1 diagram.
The author reports on his motivation and construction of this easy-to-play instrument, which is based partly on the form of a guitar but also on harps and zithers. It is played using a finger tapping technique called “hammering on,” as with the Chapman stick. It is essentially a very wide guitar neck with 32 strings and 24 frets. Acoustic, electric, and MIDI versions are illustrated. It can be played in just, meantone, or other unequally spaced tunings. The article covers construction materials, tuning, and playing technique. [Additional keywords: scale patterns, soundboards, keyboards]

“Driftwood Marimbas” by Bart Hopkin. 1 page; 2 photos.
Hopkin’s article gives step by step instructions for assembling a marimba on the beach, without the use of any tools and hardware. Tips are provided on finding, selecting, and combining wood pieces. [Additional keywords: xylophones, sounding bars, idiophones, glockenspiels, vibraphones]

“Conjoined String Systems: Reports From Builders” by Mario Van Horrik and Paul Panhuysen. 3 1/2 pages; 3 photos, 4 drawings.
*(see also EMI Volume 6 #?)* The authors describe their use of very long string instruments in a way that merges the elements of sound, dance performance, and visual art on an architectural scale, particularly with multiple strings that are attached directly to one another. With text, photographs, and drawings, Van Horrik describes three constructions that use guitar strings, piano wires, rope, and elastic cords to either conduct vibrations or electric current, or both, while motors and piezo transducers produce and amplify vibrations. Overtone patterns are their outstanding sonic feature, sometimes varied by the combination of transverse and longitudinal vibration. In his “The Bird’s Mouthpiece” springs, hinges, amplifiers and feedback are also used. Panhuysen’s many installations are multiple-string systems conceived with their visual result first, and are always related the architecture of the space. Tuning systems and techniques are also described. [Additional keywords: piezo pickups, Maciunas Ensemble, Het Apollhuis, Eindoven, Netherlands, Ellen Fullman, springs]

“A Day in the Patent Library” by Bart Hopkin. 3 pages; 5 drawings.
*(see also EMI Volume 6 #? And volume 4 #2)* In a patent search intended to find other instruments similar to a variable-pitch wind instrument design of his own, the author finds three related variable-pitch wind instrument designs. The transverse flute by Jeffery L. Lewis is similar to the author’s own glissando clarinet, the Bentwood Chalumeau. His other finds are patents for a wind instrument with helical frequency determining means by John W. McBride, and a slide saxophone by Martin Juhn. The text describes the principles indicated by the drawings. Also, a drawing of the Hopkin’s own instrument illustrates its slit-tube design. Additional keywords: law, lawyers, legal, tubes, toneholes,]

“Book Review: Het Apollhuis 1985-1990″ by Bart Hopkin. 1 page.
Review of a retrospective catalog of exhibits and performances at this Dutch center for the multidisciplinary exploration of art based mostly in sound. Founded and directed by Paul Panhuysen in Eindoven, The Netherlands in 1980, Het Apollhuis has played a leading role as a presenting organization, a research center, and a publisher. The catalog documents a large number of installations, events, and concerts by over 400 artists in hundreds of photos and brief texts. It is a follow-up to an earlier catalog documenting the center’s first five years of activity. Hopkin adds brief descriptions of the work by these documented artists: Gunter Demnig; Rolf Langenbartels; Nicolas Collins; Pierre Bastien; Nico Parlevliet; Ron Kuivila; Mark Laiosa.

“Editor’s Annual Report” by Bart Hopkin. 1/2 page.
The author reviews past accomplishments and other prospects for future Experimental Musical Instruments publications.

“EMI’s 6-year Index.” 2 1/2 pages.
A subject index for articles that have appeared in Experimental Musical Instruments since it began publication in 1985. Articles are listed under 49 primary topics; passing references are not indexed. This early index has since been superceded by the listing you are currently reading.


Letters. 3 pages.
Hal Rammel offers some text on Edwin Teale’s oversized fiddles and harps. Hugh Davies mentions cat organs and Colin Hinz discusses mechanisms in computer-controlled instruments. On player pianos, Steve Peters talks about the Musée de la Musique Méchanique in Paris. Skip La Plante briefly describes an Indonesian instrument that resembles rubber bands stretched around a shoebox. Other mentions are ornate kalimba instruments by Nadi Qamar, Dali’s melting clock, music access national network, and the May 1991 issue of Ear magazine’s focus on environment.

“Famous Early Color Organs” by Kenneth Peacock. 4 pages, 4 photos, 2 tables.
This history examines early attempts by philosophers, poets, painters, scientists, and musicians to understand the relationship of color- and light-perception to sound and music. The eighteenth century mathematician Louis-Bertrand Castel published plans for a clavecin oculaire, an instrument based on Isaac Newton’s theory that the perception of color and sound were physically analogous, e.g., that light waves and sound waves at different frequencies exist on the same physical spectrum. In the nineteenth century techniques using electricity, flames, and mechanics, instruments for projecting colored light were developed. A forerunner to modern lighting and projection systems, Bainbridge Bishop’s concept for painting music led to a light-producing device using shutters and levers. Frederick Kastner’s Pyrophone ignited gas jets into crystal tubes and reportedly produced sounds like human voice and orchestral along with its visual display. Among the best known is the Colour-Organ which Alexander Wallace Rimington patented in the late-nineteenth century. It was called for in Alexander Scriabin’s famous 1911 color-symphony, Prometheus, the Poem of Fire. The tables show differing ideas of how colors of the light spectrum should correspond to notes of the chromatic keyboard. [Additional keywords: acetylene, aural, synesthesia, filters, chroma, hue, intensity, multi-media, prism, optical, rheostats, stereopticon]

“Earthsounds” by Ragnar Naess. 2 pages; 6 photos.
The author tells about his role as visual designer, potter, and clay technician in collaboration with Chinese composer Tan Dan and producer, Mary Scherbatskoy for Tan’s opera performance at the Guggenheim Museum, New York. Classifications of sound in traditional Chinese music are described as well as the conceptual process and the technical system developed for the ceramic instruments. The article details the material composition and resonant properties of fired clay and glazes. The results take the form of gongs, cymbals, flutes, horns, drums, and stringed instruments in both a visually and aurally attractive and functional way. [Additional keywords: gamelan, shrinkage, minerals, Jade Bells, jars, jugs, bowls, bottles, tone holes, kalimbas, neck, pottery, stoneware, Taoist, trumpets, vase, vessel, visual design]

“Cans and Springs and Bars and Plates and Wheels” by Peter Whitehead. 2 pages; 5 photos, 1 diagram.
Whitehead’s instruments use readily available materials, simple construction methods, and have the appearance of junk sculpture. These are described in the notes accompanying each of the five instruments pictured. Their names partly describe their material constitution. The Channel Bars is basically an aluminum xylophone. The Single Bar consists of a steel bar resting on two balloons. The Can-Can is a hanging construct suspended by coil springs. In addition to a bicycle wheel Spoke-Speak also uses metal bowls and a garbage can, and The Metal Cone is a freestanding construction using circular metal plates. The notes also describe playing techniques and their sounds. [Additional keywords: recycling, idiophones, percussion]

“Ferdinand Försch: Sound Images and Other Sound Works in Metal, Wood, and String” by Iris Tenge. 4 1/2 pages; 9 photos.
Försch’s new instruments have an equal connection between their sonic function and visual form. Construction materials and component parts are listed beside each of eight instruments in this photospread. Many use a combination of finely cut, shaped and machined wood, brass, steel, copper and aluminum supports, bridges, strings, bars, rods, and resonators. Some instruments appear in the form of slit drums, while others are hybrid combinations of percussion and stringed instruments. [Additional keywords: idiophones, percussion, sculpture]

“Conjoined String Systems: More Reports From Builders” by Jeff Kassel, Tom Nunn, and Bart Hopkin. 2 1/4 pages; 3 photos, 1 drawing.
A follow-up article to one published in EMI Vol. 7 #1, June 1991. The instruments discussed here use standard string lengths rather than very long ones, to produce more conventionally playable instruments. Kassel’s Tritar and his plans for the three-sided Trila-Trarp, as well as Hopkin’s Trillium Cluster are pictured. Nunn describes three ways to conjoin strings and the resulting tones and overtone relationships. One system employs a knitting needle, another a washer, the third a conical radiator in place of a washer. [Additional keywords: harps, sounding boxes]


Letters. 3 pages; 2 photos.
Alistar Riddell, author of a previous article on electro-mechanically played pianos, responds to Colin Hinz’s question about unwanted mechanical noise. Two photographs and a brief letter describe Balanced Beams, a sound sculpture by Ernie Althoff using a bamboo support structure, aluminum bowls, suspended shells, and swinging poles. Ivor Darreg writes about the piano’s status and obsolescence. [Additional keywords: computer controllers, installations, solenoids, circuit design, history, furniture, recycling, piano actions]

“Membrane Reeds: Indonesia and Nicasio” by Bart Hopkin. 5 pages; 3 photos, 7 drawings.
An article on the author’s solution to alternative reed types for use in wind instruments. Single and Double reeds, such as those used in clarinets and oboes, have a mechanism for converting a steady air stream into a series of rapid pulses which vibrate at the tube’s resonant frequency. The labial reed system uses a balloon neck pulled over the rim of a tube, which provides an effective way to create pressure-responsive gating of an air stream. The article addresses design issues of pitch stability, pitch range, tube lengths, spacing of toneholes, tuned air columns, air chambers, pipes, and airflow. Accounts from Saul Robbins and Jack Body describe similar instruments made and used in Java and Sumatra. These are made of discarded plastics, namely film canisters and cellophane membranes. [Additional keywords: aerophones, mouthpieces, lips, diameters, blow tubes]

“Famous 20th Century Color Instruments” by Kenneth Peacock. 5 pages; 7 photos.
This article continues the extensive history that began in “Famous Early Color Organs,” which appeared in EMI’s September 1991 issue. Resuming with Alexander Scriabin’s color-symphony Prometheus, the Poem of Fire, the author describes the attempts at inventing a machine to effectively realize his color score, such as the Chromola, as well as accounts of its various performances. The associations between pitches and corresponding colors were often debated. Some inventors claimed therapeutic benefits from their color music. Mechanical and electrical operations of the many instruments are described. Particular attention is given to the development, construction, and concert performances with Thomas Wilfred’s Clavilux, an instrument that used prisms, disks, and filters to project light to form geometric shapes on a screen. Wilfred notated his light scores and the performances of his Lumia Suite possessed dramatic effects. This historical account concludes with a description of Frederick Bentham’s Light Console and recent laser light shows and kinetic art. [Additional keywords: acetylene, aural, synesthesia, filters, chroma, hue, intensity, multi-media, prism, optical, rheostats, stereopticon]

“Ukeful Ideas” by Brian Stapleton. 2 pages; 5 photos.
Various ukuleles are shown and briefly described, all built by the author, a London-based instrument restorer and luthier. [Additional keywords: Polynesian, wood]

“The Devil’s Fiddle: Past and Present” by Hal Rammel. 31/2 pages; 2 photos; 5 drawings.
Part one of a two-part article; this part describes the history and curious culture of this instrument. A simple and usually self-built instrument consisting of a stick and a single string. Variations of it are found through history and in many continents. Frequently used at taverns, street festivals, parades, and carnivals, it likely served as noise device and may be a crude cousin of the refined Tromba Marina. It goes under many names: bladder and string, Teufelsgeige, bumbass, ozembouch, nun’s violin, stick zither. In some manifestations it was topped with a carved clown’s head, sometimes with bells, wood block, and drum attached, and played with a notched bow. [Additional keywords: bowed chordaphones, idiophones, scepter, street musicians, folk music, entertainers, carnivals, circuses, clowns, dance, drums, Stumpf Fiddles, vaudeville, bumbass, rumsterstang, krigsdjaevel, museums, musicking, notched bows, vernacular, washboards]


Letters & Notes. 4 pages.
Stephen Malinowski, developer of a scrolling, sound synchronized, bar-graph score for listeners called the Music Animation Machine, responds to Kenneth Peacock’s article on Famous Early Color Organs. François Baschet provides a drawing, photo, and observations on the slide clarinet, namely a helical telescoping mechanism, as well as patent information. [Additional keywords: colors, hue, intensity, light receptors]

“Why Build Instruments?: An Account of a 7 Year Process to Overcome Exoticism” by Guy Laramée. 2 pages; 6 photos.
This article describes TUYO, a Canadian music ensemble who perform with self-built metalophones, tuned shakers, accordions blown by foot-operated bellows and aluminum tube xylophones. The group is devoted to Harry Partch’s idea of “corporeal” music, one that is visual, gestural, and microtonal. The article discusses theatrical staging of large-scale events, touring with heavy instruments, the aesthetic concerns with physicality and presence. Instruments pictured are the harmonium, Métalo, Tubes, Léléphant, Galére, and Tortue. [Additional keywords: Montréal, theater, opera, just intonation]

“John Hajeski’s Portable Anarchy” by Mike Hovancsek. 1 1/2 pages; 3 photos, 1 diagram
Hajeski built several homemade electronic instruments by modifying circuit boards of car radios and Walkmans. The article suggests that anyone with an old radio, soldering tools, and ammeter can add normally-open switches to the key transistor that effects tone control, and tuning, to create their own Kraakdoos, or “cracklebox.” The analog sounds produced are more earthy and shifting than more complex digital instruments. [Additional keywords: cracked, hacked, circuit bending, contacts, foot switch]

“My Life… For A Sound…If the Tune Begins With A YOU” by William Louis Soerensen. 4 1/2 pages; 14 photos
The author writes about his large-scale projects that integrate environmental sound sculpture, outdoor and indoor sound installations, and one string instrument. Seven works are pictured and described which have been built and exhibited internationally. Their design and structure integrate visual and acoustic functions with environmental conditions, either by combining readily available manufactured materials and devices with natural materials, tree branches in one example, or by using naturally occurring light, wind, and water energy. One of his intermedia works combines multi-channel tape loops and electronic tone generators with projections, photocells, and ultrasound transmitters. Another temporary sidewalk installation was intended for as many as one hundred pedestrians to play at once. The other projects incorporate existing soundscapes, parabolas, landscape, architecture, standing air columns, revolving tubes, reflective thunder sheets, gardens, pile drivers, and the ecology of chosen sites. The artists also discusses the broader historical and cultural issues and motivations behind his efforts. [Additional keywords: audience interactions, bottles, locations, site specific, solar activated, strings, tidal actions, resonators]

“Sound, The Re-conquering of Space and Slow Time: Some Reflections on the Sound Sculptures of William Louis Soerensen” by Jean Fischer. 1/2 page.
This article places Soerensen’s work within a historical context, particularly in relation to modern and postmodern paradigms. The author defines and classifies his work in six categories, typified by the work of other artists or trends: Dadaist machines; extended or homemade instruments; soundscapes; New Age and nature-idylls; wind-harps.

“The Devil’s Fiddle: Past and Present, Part Two” by Hal Rammel. 5 pages; 9 photos, 1 drawing
The second half of Rammel’s report on the history of this string and percussion instrument, which is found in diverse forms and under various names throughout Europe, North America, and beyond. Part one (see VOLUME 7 #3, NOVEMBER 1991) traced the early history, evolution, and curious culture of this instrument. Part two focuses on the fiddles more recent history of its players and makers. [Additional keywords: bowed chordaphones, idiophones, street musicians, folk music, entertainers, carnivals, circuses, clowns, dance, drums, Stumpf Fiddles, vaudeville, bumbass, rumsterstang, krigsdjaevel, museums, musicking, notched bows, Peripola, vernacular, washboards]

“The Aerophor-A Breath Saving Device” by Margaret Downie Banks. 1 1/2 pages; 4 photos
Reprinted with permission from the Newsletter of the American Musical Instrument Society, written by the curator of The Shrine to Music Museum, describes a tone-sustaining device for wind instruments invented by German flutist, Bernhard Samuels in 1911. Its purpose was to artificially supply an uninterrupted airflow to his or her instrument. It used a foot- or arm-operated bellows to force a continuous air supply, heated by an electric lamp to player’s breath temperature, via a rubber tube held in the player’s mouth. According to the inventor this also provided certain health and hygenic benefits. [Additional keywords: air pressure, breath controllers, circular breathing, embouchures, wind passages, extended techniques, tubes]

VOLUME 7 #5, APRIL 1992

Letters & Notes. 4 pages; 5 photos, 3 drawings
Jeff Kassel supplies photo of a Rain Chime manufactured by AG Industries in Redmond, Washington. Ernie Althoff comments on the Cat Organ. François Baschet responds to Ivor Darreg’s article on piano harps in the Piano Reincarnation Project (Volume 7 #3), labial reeds and the Pathé Brothers’ loudspeaker used the early 1900s, comparing it to a 1940 US Army patent for the same design. Colin Hinz offers information and photos of his electro-mechanically operated piandemonium, and responds to Alistar Ridell’s comments (Volume 7 #2 and #3) about noise and solenoids. Notes on Jew’s Harp Festival, Instruments of Sound exhibition, Leonardo Music Journal, Sound Symposium, Melody Chups candy, and plastic water bottle congas.

“The Instruments of Qubais Reed Ghazala” by Mike Hovancsek. 2 pages; 6 photos
A brief biography and introduction to work of the inventor and well-known proponent of circuit bending. Later issues of EMI featured the series of articles Q. R. Ghazala wrote on his discovery, philosophy, and techniques of circuit bending. Five of his interactive, bio-modulated electronic instruments are shown here, the Photon Clarinet; Harmonic Window; Solar Bug Box; L’ esprit En Piege; and The R.A.P. (Readily Avaible Phonemes). Components used include tone generators, digital samplers, solar cells, photocells, microprocessors, typewriter keyboard, and voice synthesizers. [Additional keywords: cracked, hacked, body contacts, switches]

“Bridges: An Indian Perspective” by David R. Courtney, Ph.D. 4 pages; 4 photos, 8 drawings
The Indian concept of the string instrument bridge differs to the Western because, in addition to a mechanical coupling of strings and resonators, it serves an additional function of modifying timbre, and produces far richer harmonics. A brief history, descriptions and comparisons of the proto-bridge, simple bridges with solid resonators and simple bridges with membrane resonators are provided. Five types of bridge mechanisms are used in the Indian subcontinent. The unique flat bridge is often referred to as the jawari and is found on instruments such as the rudra vina, sitar, sarasvati vina, gotuvadyam, surbahar, and tanpura. Another type is the combination of flat and membrane bridges found in drone strings of the sarangi and sarod. [Additional keywords: banjo, sympathetic vibrations, tamboura, esraj, dilruba, saringda, ektar, dotar, ravinhatu, folk instruments, adjustable bridges]

“The Till Family Rock Band” by Dr. A M Till. 2 pages; 3 photos
The author writes about his research into family members who toured widely in the British Isles and America in the 1880s. His discovery of an aging photograph shows them playing a lithophone or xylophone made of stones laid on a trestle, with wood hammers as mallets. Named a Rock Harmonicon, the instrument used at least 50 stones in two layers, which suggests they were tuned in a modern chromatic scale. Other families made similar instruments. They and the whereabouts of these instruments are listed in the sidebar. Many now reside in museums. [Additional keywords: sounding bars, glockenspiels]

“Air Column Shapes for Winds: Basic Principles, Part 1″ by Bart Hopkin. 6 pages; 6 drawings
This article is an explanation of practical wind instrument acoustics. It provides an overview of wind instrument bore shapes, and how different shapes affect sound and playability. The physical properties of airflow and the role of chamber resonance are described. Comparisons of cylindrical to conical bores and their effect on harmonic overtones, the effects of standing wave patterns in air columns, and other considerations are discussed. Formulas and bibliography provide further useful information sources.
NOTE: This and 3 subsequent articles have been reprinted, with substantial updates, corrections, improvements and additions, as the book Air Columns and Toneholes, available from Experimental Musical Instruments.
[Additional keywords: aerophones, flutes, tubes, modes, nodes, toneholes, mouthpieces]

“How To Build the Pianorad: Construction of the Instrument Combining the Piano and Radio” by Clyde J. Fitch. 2 pages; 2 drawings
Originally published in Radio News magazine, this 1926 article explains how to build a truly vintage electronic instrument. Predating analog synthesizers, transistors, integrated circuits, and microprocessors, each of its 25 home-built audio frequency oscillators uses, among other components, a vacuum tube, a condenser, and a transformer winding less its iron core. It instructs builders to use a nail in place of the core, moving it back and forth by hand for oscillator tuning. The disturbing superheterodyne and beating effects of tunings gone awry are described, suggesting the equivalent sound quality of the ring modulator. Partial schematics included. [Additional keywords: amperes, filaments, rheostats, keyboards]

“Sound by Artists: Book Review” by Bart Hopkin. 1 page.
Review of an anthology of writings, edited by Dan Lander and Micah Lexier, about sound art. It assembles essays by over thirty artists’, including an extensive bibliography and discography. Published in 1990 by Art Metropole in Toronto, these texts are informed by Luigi Russolo’s Futurist Art of Noises and John Cage’s electronic music credo, and are aimed at opening the artistic use of sound to uses that extend beyond music; where listening, recorded sounds as material, the avant-grade, radio and mass media all offer many new ideas and methods for the art of sound.

VOLUME 7 #6, JULY 1992

“Process And Development of the Waterharp” by Richard Waters. 3 pages; 5 photos
Well-known for his invention and marketing of the Waterphone, Waters describes some spin off ideas and varied approaches to his design of acoustic water-oriented instruments, as well as the construction of the waterlyre; history, materials, and dreams. Four photos detail his waterharps, illustrating the bridges, stainless steel bowls, tree branches, tuning pegs, resonators, and attachment of strings. [Additional keywords: nature sounds]

“Aspects of the Terrain Instruments” by Leif Brush. 5 pages; 14 photos
Brush’s article describes his systems for creating and listening to and sometimes modifying the sounds of hidden natural events. In one of his outdoor installations, galvanized and stainless steel wires strung between trees can be monitored. The large-scale site-specific pieces use special contact sensors or transducers, attached to wood or ribbons, to amplify microsound events. FM radio transmitters are used to carry preamplified vibrations of atmospheric phenomena acting upon man-made sources. In some cases sounds are presented as they are, in others sounds are manipulated electronically. Among the many installations shown here are Insect Recording Studio, Chord Draft Monitor, Meany Ice Floe, Treeharps Network, Terraplane Chorography II, and The Telephone Finally Earns Its Keep. One concept involves solar powered electronics and satellite transponders. [Additional keywords: electroacoustic, nature sounds, soundscapes, interactive arts]

“Air Column Shapes for Wind Instruments: Basic Principles, Part 2″ by Bart Hopkin
The second half the article featured in issue #6, this one focuses on acoustic behaviors of air columns and chambers in more practical detail than Part 1. Provided are comparisons of conical and cylindrical tubes; frequency and wavelength calculations; information on effects of air column thickness (cross sectional shape and bends). The properties of bells and mouthpieces are divided into discussions of radiation and reflection at tube openings, the effects of mouthpieces and reeds on resonances, and overall shape. Hemholtz resonators are also discussed. Formulas and bibliography provide further information sources.
NOTE: This and 3 subsequent articles have been reprinted, with substantial updates, corrections, improvements and additions, as the book Air Columns and Toneholes, available from Experimental Musical Instruments.
[Additional keywords: aerophones, apertures, flutes, modes, anti-nodes, nodes, oscillations, overtones, partials, toneholes]

“Building a Color Organ: The Harmonicophone Shows Notes and Harmonics Sounded” by Manuel Comulada
Originally published in Science and Invention, this 1922 article describes the construction and principles of electrical circuits selectively tuned in response to different frequencies by means of Helmholtz resonators. Not only can this system be used for pure aesthetic results, it also can be a tool for the study of acoustical physics, e.g., a spectrum analyzer. For a full history of color organs see Ken Peacock’s articles in Volume 7, issues #2 and #3. Also mentioned is the patent for an acoustically-controlled submarine torpedo. [Additional keywords: lights, lighting, oscillations, overtones, partials, science, vanes]

“Rocks in Rut” by Robin Goodfellow 2 pages; 3 drawings
Goodfellow’s report on natural rock whistles focuses on barnacles and clams, found among rocky Pacific coastal waters and beaches. The acorn barnacle or Balunus glandula, has a conical shape and high, piercing tone. Another sea creature, Penitella penita bores holes into rocks, leaving them suitable as panpipes of relative greater range and prettier tones. The curious biology of Penitella penita and Balunus glandula are also described. [Additional keywords: oceans, shells, natural materials, tunnels, zoology]

“The Zil” by Liza Carbé 1 page; 1 photo
Carbé’s article describes her invention, a string instrument that has a metal cone resonator shaped like a megaphone. Multiple strings (piano wire) runs across the large end opening, with a wood bridge attached to the lip of the cone. Other strings pass through the cone and are attached to a tuning mechanism mounted along its length. Pitch bending capabilities are available and it is tuned to a pentatonic scale. [Additional keywords: harps, harpsichords]



“Mobius Operandi: Instruments by Oliver Di Cicco”: Peter Whitehead. 5 pages; 9 photos.
A description and tour of instrument builder Oliver Di Cicco’s sound sculpture instruments that consist primarily of percussion and stringed instruments made from steel, aluminum and wood and fitted with pick-ups. [Additional keywords: sound sculpture, Mobius Operandi]

“The Ondes Martenot”: Thomas Block. 5 pages; 14 photos, drawings and diagrams.
A concise article describing this early electronic instrument, invented by Maurice Martenot, that consisted of a keyboard along with a pull-cord and finger-ring to adjust frequency. Its history is given in evolutionary stages and its performance techniques are addressed as well. [Additional keywords: theremin, keyboard instruments]

“Improvisation with Experimental Musical Instruments”: Tom Nunn. 3 pages.
A short treatise on one’s personal approach to improvising with experimental musical instruments. Topics addressed are: advantages and disadvantages of improvisation, physical limitations of the instrument and the relationship between the instrument and the player.

“Musical Pillars Commentary”: Matthieu Croset. 1 page; 1 photo.
Brief description of the musical pillars of Tamil Nadu in South India. [Additional keywords: stone pillars, harmonic overtones, lithophones]

“Scrapyard Percussion”: Bill Sethares and John Bell. 2 pages; 3 photos.
The authors discuss the instruments that they built with materials gleaned from visiting metal scrap yards. Cymbals, scrapers and spring reverb arise from a heating element, corrugated tubing and a coil of BX cable. [Additional keywords: found instruments]

“Introduction to Spectrum Analysis”: David R Courtney. 5 pages; 10 diagrams & tables.
The author describes how spectrum analysis is a tool for looking at timbre and leads the reader through its background, the process of sampling and the use of Fourier transforms. [Additional keywords: sampling, waves, oscilloscope, Fourier transforms ]

“Circuit-Bending and Living Instruments”: Qubais Reed Ghazala. 6 pages; 17 photos.
Ghazala lays the foundation for his experimental electronics, which often involves deliberately mis-wiring existing, inexpensive, low-voltage electronic components, toys and gadgetry, in search of interesting sounds. He gives the reader definitions, explanations of general practice and rules, procedures and safety tips for dealing with audio circuit boards. [Additional keywords: experimental electronics]

“Trans-atlantic African Organology: The Tradition of Renewal”: Richard Graham. 7 pages; 7 pictures.
An article dealing with organological change in Africa and diaspora. There is an in-depth focus on two musical instruments, the steel drum and the tamborim. Numerous examples are given throughout and a through bibliography is given too.


Letters and Notes: 3 pages; 3 photos and 1 drawing.
Rene van Peer: Views on Akio Suzuki. John J. Maluda: Discovery of Ron Konzak’s Puget Sound Wind Harp. Wesley Brown: Description of bass flutes at the National Flute Association. Description of labial reeds. Description of the Yamaha Disklavier

“Complex Acoustics in Pre-Columbian Flute Systems”: Susan Rawcliffe. 11 pages;18 line drawings and diagrams.
The author describes the advanced techniques of construction that were used in manipulating sound in Pre-Columbian clay flutes. She addresses the designs of flute apertures and hoods, body shapes, vessel flutes, tubular flutes and hybrid forms, such as ball and tube flutes, whistles and ocarinas. Timbre and tuning is also touched upon and the article also includes an extensive appendix, notes and bibliography. [Additional keywords: ceramics, ocarinas, whistles]

“Kitchen Drums”: C. Luc Reid. 2 pages; 2 pictures.
An article on the construction of drums made out of plastic food service tubs. Attention is also paid to the formation of the instrument’s frame. [Additional keywords: found objects]

“Circuit-Bending and Living Instruments: The Odor Box”: Qubais Reed Ghazala. 7 pages; 6 photos.
Ghazala gives the background and evolutionary stages of his Odor Box, a machine that opens new possibilities for the basic electronic oscillator. The reader is taken through his first body-contact player interface to its more complex forms; from early concertizing in the sixties to recent gallery showings.

“A Hole is to Hit”: Robin Goodfellow. 4 pages; 6 drawings.
An overview of several world percussion instruments that incorporate skins over a hole, such as an African conical drum and a Mexican and Nepalese drum. [Additional keywords: membranophones]

“The Sound of Crystals”: Bill Sethares and Tom Staley. 2 pages; 1 diagram.
A mathematical approach to mapping the molecular data of ‘noiseless’ crystals into musical patterns by turning diffraction patterns into sound. [Additional keywords: Fourier transforms, auditory crystallography, diffraction]

“DNA Tunings”: Susan Alexjander. 2 pages; 1 picture.
The author describes how she went about mapping molecular light absorbtion spectra into sound. Her piece entitled, “Sequencia” was based on the ratios of light frequencies in the light absorption spectra of certain DNA molecules. She also talks of programming the synthesizer for the sonic realization, and performance issues.

“Motorized Guitar Objects”: Glenn Engstrand. 4 pages; 9 pictures and photos.
The author investigates electric guitar pickups in interaction with small electric motors held in proximity, in a historical overview and an in- depth look into how these “motorized guitar objects” work. The author’s various projects, such as Godzilla, Flying Glove and TBF Avenger are mentioned. [Additional keywords: electromagnetic pickups]

VOLUME 8 # 3 MARCH 1993

Letters and Notes: 5 pages; 2 drawings and 4 photos.
Alan Tower: Butterfly sounds. Peter Denny: Kitchen drums. Pete Hurney: Guatemalan Marimba. Gordon Frazier and the Sumpter Valley Jew’s Harp Festival. 3rd Annual Chicago Invented Instruments Festival.

“Ken Butler’s Hybrid Instruments”: Ken Butler. 5 pages; 15 photos.
A background and description of Ken Butler’s hybrid instruments and their playing techniques. The instruments are made up of household objects or other found objects fitted with strings and other sounding devices, usually employing a pickup. His notion of ‘hyper utility’ is clearly evidenced in instruments such as the Bicycle Seat Violin, Machine Gun Viola and Baseball Bat/Cane/Cello. [Additional keywords: sound sculpture ]

“An Experimental Slide Bass Clarinet”: Wes Brown. 3 pages; 2 photos and 3 diagrams.
The author describes his Experimental Slide Bass Clarinet, a cylindrical tube with a slide and a bass clarinet mouthpiece. There is a description of its design, how it was constructed and the technical formulas used to achieve it as well as its possible musical range and how to perform on it. [Additional keywords: reed instruments]

“Wind Instrument Toneholes”: Bart Hopkin. 7 pages; 7 drawings and diagrams.
Part one of a pair of articles focusing on the placement, sizing and design of toneholes for wind instruments. The author introduces theoretical methods from guesswork to calculation, formulas, rules to base your decisions on and added comments on register holes and globular flutes. NOTE: An updated, augmented and much improved version of the information appearing in this article appears in the book Air Columns and Toneholes by Bart Hopkin, also available through this web site. [Additional keywords: flutes; woodwinds]

“Still Nothing Else Like It: The Theremin”: Ivor Darreg and Bart Hopkin. 5 pages; 2 pictures.
A history and description of the instrument and its inventor, Leo Theremin. There is also detailed information on how the theremin works as well as approaches to playing the instrument. Important sidebars on oscillators and capacitors and theremin making are also given. [Additional keywords: oscillators, capacitors]

“A Simple Theremin from Schematic to Performance”: Bonnie McNairn and James Wilson. 2 pages; 2 diagrams.
A concise description on how to build your own very basic theremin and what materials are needed. NOTE: a correction to the schematic appearing in this article will be found in the letters section of the following issue, EMI Volume VIII #4, June 1993.

“The Music Atrium: A Musical Playground for Kids”: Dean Friedman. 4 pages; 6 photos.
The author discusses his six acoustic and synthesizer-based sound sculpture instruments for kids, with attention paid to design and the harmonic templates available. The instruments are designed for use in exhibits and public spaces. Such instruments as the Bobble, a globe mounted with bicycle horns that play whistles and recorder mouthpieces, the Honkblatt, stools that play fog horns when sat upon, and the Jingle-Lingle-Lily, a bouquet of plastic flowers that trigger a Proteus sound module when touched, are described. [Additional keywords: sound sculpture]

“Circuit-Bending and Living Instruments: The Photon Clarinet”: Qubais Reed Ghazala. 4 pages; 4 photos.
An article focusing the author’s Photon Clarinet, consisting of a box photo resistor that houses an audio oscillator that is triggered when a hand is waved. Details on how it operates and its design are given. In an extended introduction to this, the author looks at instruments of magical sounds in voice and playing technique like the Hungarian cimbalom, the Chinese tiger gong and the Renaissance racket. [Additional keywords: theremin, photo resistors]

The Soundscape Newsletter: World Soundscape Project, reviewed by Tom Nunn. 1/2 page.
A report on of the World Soundscape Project and its newsletter. It is an organization devoted to awareness of the sonic environment.

VOLUME 8 #4, JUNE 1993

Letters and Notes. 5 pages; 7 photos.
Phil Krieg: Corrections to the digital theremin schematic that appeared in the previous issue. Mike Hovancsek: Groan tubes [additional keywords: toy, reed, plastic]. Miekel And: Walker Art Museum, Fluxus, sound installations. Peter Hurney & Andy Cox: Mirliton membranes, marimba books. Duane Schultz: Many-belled free-reed horn [additional keywords: schalmei; Martintrompete]. Hal Rammel and devil’s fiddles. Haags Gemeentemuseum, technical drawings & plans for musical instruments. Dreamweaver hand-carved electric guitars. Volker Hamann and the Brusselhorn. Vestel Press.

“Stardust” by Reinhold Marxhausen. 6 1/2 pages; 9 photos; 1 drawing.
Reinhold Marxhausen makes beautiful metallic sculptural sound instruments, most of them small enough to be hand-held. In the article he describes his lifelong romance with sound, much of it through the eyes of child, set in blank verse. [Additional key words: stones; rocks; welding; styrofoam; prongs; lamella]

“Hal Rammel’s Sound Pallette” by Mike Hovanksek. 1 page; 2 photos; 2 drawings.
A description of the Sound Palette, an instrument consisting of a set of wooden rods mounted on what had been a painter’s palette, played by bowing or plucking. It’s amplified with a contact mic and the sound may be enhanced with electronic effects.

“Computer Analysis of Clarinet Multiphonics” by Kenneth J. Peacock. 4 pages; 6 charts; 1 drawing.
The author presents and analyzes computer-generated spectrographic displays representing FFTs (Fast Fourier Transforms) of clarinet tones using special fingerings to achieve multiphonics. [Additional keywords: spectrum analysis]

“Incantors” by Qubais Reed Ghazala. 3+ pages; 2 photos.
After a brief preliminary discussion of historical attempts at speech synthesis, Reed Ghazala goes on to describe his Incantor. The Incantor is an aleatoric electronic instrument made by deliberately mis-wiring and short-circuiting the electronic toy called Speak & Spell. [Additional keywords: Paget, formants. VODER]

“Wind Instrument Toneholes Part 2″ by Bart Hopkin. 4+ pages; 5 drawings.
Following the more theoretical text in Part 1 of this article (see EMI’s previous issue), this second part emphasizes practical aspects of tonehole making and tuning, as well as home-buildable tonehole key levers and pads. Note: a much improved and updated version of this article and the others of this series is available in the booklet Air Columns and Toneholes, available through EMI. [Additional keywords: Side holes, Leonardo da Vinci]

“Don’t Sue Me, I Just Want Your Sounds,” by David Barnes. 3 pages; 4 photos.
The author describes his compositional and instrument-making work based on other people’s instruments that he has seen described in earlier issues of EMI. He discusses his instrument based on Tom Nunn’s T-Rodimba, his Trash Can Platter based on instruments from Peter Whitehead, a bass tubulon (steel conduit marimba), and his PVC Monster based on Phil Dadson’s end-slapped plosive aerophone tubes. [Additional key words: slap tubes, metallophones, metal rods]

“Systems for Non-Linear Instruments and Notation, Part 1″ by Dan Senn. 5+ pages; 6 photos; 3 diagrams.
Instruments which can’t be prescriptively controlled by the maker or player, but which follow their own unpredictable patterns of sound, can be called, in author Dan Senn’s word, ‘non-linear.’ This article talks about several such instruments made by Dan Senn as well as other makers, and the devising of notation systems for them. Among the makers and instruments discussed in Part 1 of the article: Phill Niblock, Volker Staub, Stuart Saunders Smith, Joel Chadabe, David Zicarelli, Johannes Schmidt-Sistermanns, and Joe Jones. See Part Two of this article, in the following issue (EMI Vol. 9 #1) for more on the author’s own instruments. [Additional key words: scrapercussion; improvisation; computers; sampling; photovoltaics; sound sculpture]

Book Reviews. 1 1/2+ pages.
Douglas Kahn & Gregory Whitehead, editors: Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant-Garde. [Additional keywords: sound art]
C.A. Fortuna: Microtone Guide [Additional keywords: just intonation; equal temperaments; tuning theory]


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