Ancient musical reconstruction has led to the discovery of the sounds made by Aztec "death whistles".
When you were a kid, maybe you played with the spring doorstop. I know I did. Maybe you play with it now. I know I do. Anyway, here's The Electric Spring Doorstop, which is, as the kids say, totally awesome.
Walter Kitundu is an artist and MacArthur Fellow (previously). In this video, he gives a lecture at the San Francisco Exploratorium about his bespoke instruments and lighting experiments. At around 16 minutes in, he plays his digital revision of a kora.
How Did Ancient Greek Music Sound?
The music of ancient Greece, unheard for thousands of years, is being brought back to life by Armand D'Angour, a musician and tutor in classics at Oxford University. He describes what his research is discovering.Song Of The Sirens [more inside]
Fly Me to the Moon on Otamatone. What is an Otamatone? It's a cute little musical toy that sings. Also: Otamatone metal. [more inside]
It's not so often that a new acoustic musical instrument is invented that really makes you go "wow!", but the Wheelharp might just make you go "double wow!" [more inside]
Awesome rendition of Jimi Hendrix' Voodoo Chile played on a gayageum, a Korean stringed instrument | Scuttle Buttin on the gayageum rocks as well | Joe Satriani's Starry Night, the gayageum version | Luna Lee's YouTube channel. A little about the gayageum.
Next week, for the first time in 22 years, PBS will televise the four dramas of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle on consecutive nights - a rare opportunity to encounter in the manner intended "the most ambitious and most profound work of art ever created". [more inside]
I just stumbled upon some Thai music performed on an instrument I hadn't heard of until just now. But the curious machine-gun rhythm patterns are kinda rocking my world. It was uploaded to YT yesterday, and at the moment has a big FIVE views. And I think two of those are mine. Anyway, here it is: เดี่ยวจะเข้ [ Jakae solo ] : ครูทองดี สุจริตกุล [ Khru Thong-dee Sucharitkul ]. Now, here's another, apparently by the same lady. She's got a seriously percussive, take-no-prisoners approach to the instrument. But in neither of those clips do we see the instrument being played. So I looked around some more, and found this one, and though this guy's style is not quite as, um, *punk*, it's still pretty badass, and you get the visual idea of what the instrument is all about, not to mention the all-important twin-percussion backing. Hope you enjoy this little glimpse into the world of the Thai jakae.
There comes a time in the musical lives of some guitar players when six strings just won't get the job done. They need seven. Or eight. Or nine. Or ten. Or eleven. Or twelve. Or eighteen. [more inside]
Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037, a documentary by Ben Niles. "Invention for 900 Hands", a nine-part series in The New York Times. "K 2571: The Making of a Steinway Grand", an article in The Atlantic Monthly. [more inside]
Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" arranged for 8 pianos - performed by Leif Ove Andsnes, Emanuel Ax, Claude Frank, Evgeny Kissin, Lang Lang, James Levine, Mikhail Pletnev, and Staffan Scheja. [more inside]
It's like Evolution of Dance—a collection of kicky songs, just substitute dancing for the tribal drumming of a self-crafted PVC pipe instrument. 19 songs in 8 minutes. [more inside]
Do you need a free library of high-quality, carefully-recorded samples of a wide variety of musical instruments? The University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios' Musical Instrument Samples page has got you covered, from alto flute to violin. [more inside]
The Lur is an overblown ancient northern European wind instrument made of bark or carved solid wood, with an incredibly "noble" sound (usually). [more inside]
Drawdio: A Pencil that Lets You Draw Music
Nine bands enter, only one emerges sober • Timelapsed, three college-age kids play the Theme to Tetris around a table on beer bottles • The Magic Blow_ob Ensemble plays Shostakovich's "Jazz Suite #2" on beer bottles • Two Polish Buskers play Greig's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" on beer bottles • The Bottle Band (also from Poland) performs "The Entertainer" on beer bottles • The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra plays the Victoria Bitter beer jingle on Victoria Bitter beer bottles • St. Luke's Bottle Band plays Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Reed Flutes" on beer and other bottles • The Bowen Beer Bottle Band [previously] performs "Do You Hear What I Hear?" on beer bottles • An ensemble wearing matching clothing plays "Mamma Mia" by ABBA on beer bottles • The J2O Bottle Blowing Choir performs "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (they are too young for beer) • [more inside]
Harpsichords sound pretty. Look pretty too. You can build your own. Even from Lego. (previously) But don't make it your trade.
Jig Dolls as a percussion instrument, here played by Jean Ritchie [previously] and The Beers Family. There are modern exponents though - Limberjacking is NOT just for folkies.
132 keys, two strip controllers and a breath pipe. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Eigenharp, instrument of the future.
The Snyderphonics Manta. With a few exceptions like the rare Buchla Thunder and the ZenDrum, computer musicians were stuck with controllers disguised as traditional instruments, rolling their own, or using grids of generic rubber pads. The Manta, in the spirit of the Serge TKB's capacitance touchplate construction, attempts to do something new, and people are already doing interesting things with it. Videos: polyphonic keys, sequencer, technique, and lots more
"For the first time in history a wireless motion-sensing wig is used as game controller." SLYT via Kotaku
In 1952, Bernard and François BASCHET reveal a new acoustic principle. They manage to amplify the internal vibration of metal, thus founding a new acoustic instrumental family : The Sound Structures [more inside]
Pronounced "chin" ("stringed instrument") or "goo chin" ("old stringed instrument"), the qin / guqin throughout its long history has been the musical instrument most prized by China's literati. They categorized it as one of their "four arts", collected it as an art object, praised its beautiful music, and built around it a complex ideology (compare its image in popular culture). No other instrument was described and illustrated in such detail, so often depicted in paintings, or so regularly mentioned in poetry. And its tablature documents the world's oldest detailed written instrumental music tradition, allowing both historically informed performance (requiring silk strings) of the many early melodies, and practical exploration of the relationship between Chinese music theory and music practice. The guqin silk string zither work of John Thompson. [more inside]
Walter Kitundu is one of this year's MacArthur Fellows, a musician and artist who invents and builds new instruments from turntables, strings and the interactions of the elements. His recent invention, the Ocean Edge Device, uses the flow of the rushing tides to provide energy for on-board accordion and turntable instrumentation.
Is it a wok?! An UFO?! No, it's The Hang Drum! With its distinct serene sound, Hang, as it's also called ("Hand" in Swiss German), was created in 2000 in Switzerland by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer after years of research. It's a versatile instrument that can be customized to produce many different musical scales. Want one yourself? Unfortunately, only a few are custom-made each year by Rohner and Schärer. More Hang music? Listen to the Hang radio station. More: videos | music | known artists | a beautiful Hang used by musician Alan Tower
You may have never heard of it, but you've damn near certain heard it. The Mellotron (FortuneCity link) is a keyboard instrument; each of its keys triggers a tape with a pre-recorded instrument on it. It was effectively the world's first sample player. [more inside]
The tromba marina, also known as the marine trumpet or nun’s fiddle, is an obsolete, 4-7 foot tall, single-stringed instrument in the viol family. Played with a bow, the tromba marina sounds strangely trumpet-like (for mp3's, scroll down to the bottom of the first link), hence the name . Buy one here or make your own. You can also see one up-close in the Musical Instrument Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but they don’t bother putting an image on their webpage, and the gallery’s carpet smells intensely of mildew.
The Chapman Stick was developed by, who else, Emmett Chapman in the early to mid 70's. One taps the strings rather than plucking and is closer to a piano than a guitar. Noted musians using the stick are Tony Levin (with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson) and Greg Howard (The Dave Mathews Band). Then there's the chick with a stick.
How to build your own violin, in 45 pictures. Or for guitarists: build your own hollow-body, solid-body electric, or steel guitar. For the budget-minded, PVC flutes. How about bagpipes? No? Surely you cannot resist the tribal sounds of the home-built didgeridoo? Other eclectic (and not so eclectic) home-built instruments.
The Optigan: OPTIcal orGAN. Long before synthesizers, ProTools, and Cubase, Mattel released a bizarre contraption called the 'Optigan' which operated by assigning each key to a track on an optical disc on which were recorded sounds of real instruments playing every individual note. This site is one guy's obsession with the instrument that may well be dead and forgotten if not for him. Check out his mp3s of his own, reasonably successful, band based around the instrument, to see how it sounds.
It's not political. But it's rather useful. Free (accurate!) tuning software for the guitarists out there.