Media: Wood and seeds
This instrument is an eight foot wooden chain attached to the top of a wooden military helmet. The helmet has at its base a ratchet which simulates the sound of a machine gun. The links that make up the chain are hollowed out and filled with seeds to produce shaker- like sounds. The chain and helmet are made out of African mahogany. The ratchet is Honduras rosewood and ebony with brass pins.
This instrument is played in a way that enhances the statement of the piece. The player carries the chain around her/his neck letting it hang to the player’s waist. The helmet is held with the left hand while the right hand produces the sound with the ratchet under it. The scary machine gun sound, and the chain around the human player’s neck visually transport us to Latin America where the “new” military slavery is in fashion.
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I design and build sound sculptures. They are made basically of wood, but at times incorporating other materials such as leather, rawhide, gourds and seeds, clay, metal and natural fibers, which produce some type of sound. They differ from musical instruments in that each piece has a unique shape and design, and that the sculptural shape of the instrument combines with the sound it produces to create an overall aesthetic effect.
Although I follow many traditional construction techniques which I learned from making traditional musical instruments, and the acoustical properties have grown out of research I have done on African, Polynesian and Latin American musical instruments, the forms are non-traditional, coming entirely out of my own imagination. Unlike ordinary musical instruments, especially those coming from the European classical tradition, each of these pieces has an individual shape which combines its musical functions with unique design elements, creating a form unlike any other object which has been used before to create a similar sound. The shapes and the sounds of these sculptures complement each other, producing a combined visual and auditory experience for both the musician and the viewer or listener.
Although my pieces are intended primarily to be art objects, they are also totally functional as musical instruments. Each sculpture is built strong enough to stand up to normal use by professional or amateur musicians. The instruments are portable, and can be played in a group, as they are either permanently tuned to a standard pitch or incorporate a tuning mechanism, so that the musician can tune them as he or she desires. Any parts, such as strings, which may be expected to wear out with repeated playing are easily replaceable. These are all qualities inherited from musical instruments but they are placed in a visual, sculptural context.