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Homemade Music

There is exciting potential in the use of homemade musical instruments.  There was a time in distant history when a musician began their career by fabricating their own instrument.  Over time, instrument building has become its own specialized profession.

Kind of like the origins of the picture frame.  Originally the gilt alcoves and shrines that religious paintings were displayed in, ornate frames then evolved to be carved by the painters themselves.  Over time, it became its own separate specialization.

One that is still boxing us in.

What I want to know is:  Have you ever designed, built, played, or recorded your own instrument?  Do you know of artists or ensembles that perform on handbuilt instruments?  And, are you interested in developing such an ensemble?

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Yes, but only in small instances.

For example, I made a little stretching harp-like thing out of pegboard and guitar wire. I am also _finally_ getting to mess around with manipulated audio (hopefully live soon). But sure, what's the idea?
2/18/2004 5:39:57 PM
name not provided
Peter: I think there are two sides - manipulated instruments / pre-exising objects and instruments created from scratch. One side you have John Cage's prepared piano, the other Paul Dresher. Check out his website at: If you hunt, you can find some mp3s.2/18/2004 7:14:39 PM
for me home made music has been more about appropriation than the actual construction of an object. i enjoy searching for sounds- kitchen sink percussion of sorts.2/19/2004 9:50:47 AM
nick is your "pen click" song up on the web?2/19/2004 9:51:37 AM
Whenever us Koreans get together to get drunk over good food, we always end up singing at which point people start clanking bottles, and drumming on the table with chopsticks. So drunk Koreans always form spontaneous bottle, table, and chopstick mallet percussion ensembles with vocal accompaniment. And then someone always wants to go to the karaoke bar.......2/20/2004 4:34:46 PM
I think it could be rewarding to integrate homemade instruments into songs or improvisations, or maybe even go all the way and have a completely homemade ensemble. Just wondering if it's been done, and if so, by whom?

There is a lot of creative recording and sampling software that open this up to being more than just kazoos and washtub bass.

I know that Nick Fisher at one time had a basement full of homemade instruments and several recordings...anyone heard from him lately?

He has OCC's oven bracket.

2/20/2004 9:40:48 PM
Nick, I was thinking about your point, and that's true: many "homemade" instruments incorporate components that already could be considered instruments on their own.

Customized instruments (like Charlie Hunter's guitar, or some of the Sonic Youth gear, or Michael Hedges' electric harp-guitar) offer lots of possibilities.

I recently saw an improvisational group, "Suppression of the Nude," and they used oil cans and other "found" percussion as well as guitar, drums, mini-violin, etc.

What's a new wrinkle that we could add to this? Is there potential for web-based improv, using nontraditional instruments? Maybe by layering tracks as it is passed from hand to hand?

My research on this has led me to find out that the word "bazooka" originally referenced a black, tubelike home-made instrument played by a comedian in the 1940s and 50s (I think). Can't recall his name at the moment...

2/22/2004 10:47:15 PM
Peter, I'd be interested in hearing more about the "Bazooka"... I had no clue!

Hmm.... Weapon of musical distruction. I could see this being used by Death Metal Bands everywhere.

2/23/2004 7:56:11 AM
Let me look that one up again...

I find myself taking a lot of delight in the "found sound" technique. Like exploring the pitchability of a rubber band. Or smacking a pan of water in search of that perfect "toing!" As a young child, I used to take the cover off of our upright piano and put my feet against the strings while striking the keys...guess I was into that John Cage thing before I was even aware of it.

By the way, I found the Dresher site very interesting. Looks like a sort of Cirque du Soleil for the ears.

2/24/2004 1:44:16 AM
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