Saturday, March 31, 2012

This post is not about a guitar.

Just a quick post with a really fun short video about improvised instruments.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Residency installation

Yesterday morning, a beautiful sunny morning and almost 60 degrees, we installed the pieces at 601 Tully.  It was pretty amazing to step back at the end and to see them all on the wall, to see all of this work finally in the home that I have been trying to get them to for the last month.

On April 5th at 7pm we will present the piece, played by myself and four friends.  Then I will play a few of my other instruments.  After that we will pass out five gallon buckets and bottle cap shakers to everyone and make a little noise, which should be fun.  After that SyraUke, the semi-monthly anti-virtuosic come-one-come-all ukulele jam session, will play a few songs, after which anyone who brings something to play is welcome to do so.  Should be a real hoot.

The pieces sound great in the stairwell.  I am really looking forward to hearing them all go at once.  In the mean time, here is a short video of the install:

Special thanks to Michelle and Katie for helping me get the pieces up and for taking the photos.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Final piece for residency

The last piece for my residency is done.  I have had this old guitar for quite a while.  I don't play it as it was never a particularly nice guitar to begin with, and it has been falling apart lately.  The top is deformed and is delaminating from the sides and the neck is like holding a baseball bat anyway.  As soon as I started thinking about this residency I knew the body of this guitar would be the centerpiece.

The thing about making a decision like that is that it tends to make the project heavier.  With more riding on this particular part of the installation, I have been avoiding working on it until the very end.  Now that we are down to the wire (the opening is next week) I knew the time had come.

As I wrote in the last post, I had an instrument in the bass register, one in the standard guitar register, and two that are higher yet, so this one I tuned as a baritone guitar (more or less).  It is pretty low, and should sit nicely between the bass and the guitar.

Here is what it sounds like:

I have had a lot of fun exploring possibilities with these five pieces.  It has been a nice break making things that are only barely playable and trying out some new things no matter how weird.  Being done, though, is also nice, and I am looking forward to making a regular old uke or two, and maybe a tenor guitar.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Four String Slide

For this residency I have made a two-string, a three string, and a six string instrument, so I thought I would try to fill in the hole.  I also have a bass scale length, a guitar scale length, and a tenor guitar scale length, so it made sense to me to try out a mandolin scale length this time.  I have been trying to keep in mind that these are all going to be heard together in a particular space, so it is important that they complement each other.  It is starting to look like they will all be tuned to an open D and be mostly played with a variety of slides, so having them live in different registers will make a difference at the end.

Probably the only time they will all be played at the same time will be at the opening on April 5th.  Thereafter the intention is that they will be strummed as people ascend and descend the staircase that the will be installed in, so keeping them all in an open tuning as much as possible will mean that the song that is heard will sound right.

I gave some thought to making an actual mandolin, and to stringing this one with four courses, or pairs of strings, but in the end it didn't seem to be as important as just having the strings tuned where they are.  There is just one piece left, now, and the clock is really ticking.  I need to start installing these pieces pretty soon so that I can start to compose (with help, I hope) the piece that will be played on them.

Here is what the fourth part of the installation sounds like:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More residency work

Things have been progressing pretty nicely with the artist's residency.  It has been interesting to step outside of the idea that I should build "real" instruments, and I have had a chance to explore the intersection of √¶sthetics and sound.  When I am making instruments I feel a certain amount of (self-imposed) pressure to make a recognisable and tunable instrument, something that some one who plays guitar or a similar instrument would be able to play.  Success is measured by doing just that, by being able to hand it to someone and have them pick it or strum a chord.

This is different.

This is about activating a room, a stairwell.  It is about creating a series of objects that will sound good in the space and that will sound good together.  I am writing a song with these found objects as I make them, and having made two instruments that are nominally in the same register as a guitar, it seemed like it was time to make something lower.  One of the problems I have been running in to is that guitar strings come at a specific length, and that if I want to make a bass I need something longer.  Then I was at SyraUke this past weekend playing washtub bass, which we have strung with a weed-wacker cord.  So there it is.

Below are three videos.  The first is an alternate way to play the first instrument:

This one is the second instrument, a 3 string slide:

And here is the bass.  Apologies for not being a bass player, but here is what it sounds like:

This is really shaping up to be weird.  I like it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Things are really getting weird

This is the staircase I am going to music-i-fy
I wrote already about the residency I am doing at 601 Tully.    I have moved in and started working, and it is a real blast.  I am going to music-i-fy a stairwell with found objects, and the start has been promising.

The general idea is that on April 5th there is going to be some kind of music event, and my hope is that we can get a bunch of folk into the stairwell to plink away at what I get on the walls and we can make some  semblance of music.  After this we'll all take found-object stuff and wail away for a while.  Mark your calendars, whatever happens it'll be odd.  

I was originally going to make five single string instruments and mount them on the wall, tuned maybe to an open chord so that they could be played simultaneously and fill the stairwell with sound, but the more I messed around in the stairwell the more I realised that just wouldn't be enough.  So I started to noodle about a little, and things just got strange.  Then this ended up on my bench:

I had been getting so very formal with the instruments I had been making that it was a great joy to just play and explore a little bit.  I learned a lot, and the whole time I was working I had a smile on my face.  What a great time.  When I finally got it strung up and strummed it I laughed out loud.

Here is what it ended up looking like and what is sounds like at the moment: