live at barbès

me & bees
The Glass Bees and I played a bunch of my homemade instruments last night at Barbès in Brooklyn. (The show was made possible by Bethany Ryker, who brings interesting stuff to Barbès every Wednesday and to wfmu every Sunday.)

Here’s some excerpts from the show– thanks to bee Chris for editing and naming the songs!

You may be able to catch an interview and some more from the show on NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered this Saturday or Sunday. [Update: the interview aired on March 7th and can be read & heard on NPR's site.]

photo: me and two bees with our granny-carts full of junkstruments!

instrument-a-day 28: melt (after mineko grimmer)

Instrument-a-day 28: MeltInstrument-a-day 28: Melt (after Mineko Grimmer)

Instrument-a-day 28: Melt (after Mineko Grimmer)

Years ago I was in a gallery show with Mineko Grimmer, who makes sound sculptures of pebbles frozen in ice. As the ice melts, the pebbles drop into a pool or a wooden lattice and make irregular sounds.

I made my own version entirely out of things from my junk drawer: marbles, squashed pennies, old keys and dog tags, and some acorns I was saving in a tiny jar. What does it sound like? I won’t find out until the weather warms up.

Many thanks to Thing-a-Day for inspiring the instrument-a-day project for the second year in a row!

instrument-a-day 27: semi-automatic bass

Instrument-a-day 27: semi-automatic bass

This one didn’t really work out. It was supposed to be a sequel to last year’s automatic tension guitar, but it doesn’t work or sound nearly as good. I’m experimenting with cheap substitutes for the little clapper solenoids I used last year, which are now really hard to find, but so far the results are bad.

And it’s not even automatic! I didn’t get around to rigging up a computer interface, so I’m playing it with the funny little wooden keyboard you can see at the upper right. It sounds like this.

instrument-a-day 26: tiny tuning fork

Instrument-a-day 26: Tiny Tuning Fork

Instrument-a-day 26: Tiny Tuning Fork

Very very tiny. I clamped it in steel pliers so I could use a magnetic pickup to record the sound it made. Slowed down by a factor of eight (down three octaves), it sounds like this.

instrument-a-day 24: mudflail

I found this arboreal flail in a mud puddle in the park, so I glued it to a motor. It keeps the beat pretty well, until it falls apart.

Instrument-a-day 25: Mudflail

It sounds like this. (Video here.)

instrument-a-day 24: mobius music

Instrument-a-day 24: Mobius Music

It’s a familiar tune played upside-down and backwards, and then just backwards, and then upside-down and backwards again. Over and over, forever.

It sounds like this. (Video here)

instrument-a-day 23: nyc sunday morning simulator

Instrument-a-day 23: NYC Sunday Morning Simulator

Instrument-a-day 23: NYC Sunday Morning Simulator

A drum, some antique wind-up motors (from the Aladdin Toy Motors company of Brooklyn!), and leftover wood from the laser whistles combine to give you a simulation of the sound of a peaceful sunday morning in New York City. It sounds like this. (Video here)

instrument-a-day 21: baby shaker

Instrument-a-day 21: Baby Shaker

Good old-fashioned circuit-bending with a baby-rattling device I found in the trash and slightly modified. Magnetic pickup and contact microphone pick up sound in two different ways.

It sounds like this.

instrument-a-day 19: garden gramophone

Instrument-a-day 19: Garden Gramophone

Instrument-a-day 19: Garden Gramophone

Instrument-a-day 19: Garden Gramophone

Fruit crate, found twigs, hardware, piezoelectric disc, sewing needle, hot glue, and "Walk This Way" by RUN-D.M.C.

I don’t have a record player, so it was time to make one out of whatever I had lying around. It sounds like this.