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Posts Tagged ‘instrument’


Photo: Johnny Milano for the New York Times
Members of the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra practice for a performance at Long Island’s Oyster Bay Music Festival.

If you liked my 2015 post about MIT wizards making vegetable instruments, wait! There’s more!

Recently, Annie Correal wrote at the New York Times about an orchestra of such instruments.

“On a muggy day in July, in a Long Island backyard, a group of musicians had gathered for rehearsal. As their conductor gently raised both hands, they steadied their instruments, and played the first notes of a Bach chorale, ‘Nun freut euch, Gottes Kinder all.’

“The conductor stopped them. The snake gourd had not hit the D and the butternut squash had come in a little sharp. Take it from the top, he told the players.

“The group rehearsing, the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra, plays instruments made entirely from vegetables. On this day, in addition to the squash and the snake gourd, it included two carrot flutes.

“The orchestra was created more than a decade ago by Dale Stuckenbruck, a classically trained musician from Germany who teaches music on Long Island. It is not the first of its kind. … But it may be the only orchestra of its kind in New York. Over the years, it has performed at schools, galleries, libraries and at an environmental conference in Geneva. It even appeared in a film.

“On this day, Mr. Stuckenbruck, 63, and his four players were rehearsing for their annual performance at the Oyster Bay Music Festival.

“Because vegetable instruments don’t last, fresh ones have to be made every time they play, and they had spent the hour before rehearsal carefully drilling into carrots and hollowing out squashes with an ice cream scoop. The table before them was covered with pulp and broken carrots. …

“The instruments had been kept in ice water so they would stay crisp. … But the temperature hovered around 90 and the day was windless, and as they played the Bach chorale, they were racing against time. In this weather, the instruments would soon grow soft and the mouthpieces gummy, or they might dry out.

“Mr. Stuckenbruck’s … patience was perhaps the key to the continued existence of the Vegetable Orchestra.

“ ‘Let’s do it again,’ he said, as they sat in the broiling sun. …

“Mr. Stuckenbruck was born in Stuttgart, Germany, the son of a saw player. He attended a Waldorf school — which favors hands-on learning — and moved to New York in his 20s to play violin and saw; he played the saw with the New York Philharmonic this spring. …

“He had been asked to create a music program for students who were not musically inclined, he said. After failing to capture their interest with in drumming and music theory, he stumbled across the Viennese Vegetable Orchestra on YouTube.”

“ ‘Everything looks easy on YouTube,’ he said.

“Making playable vegetable instruments turned out not to be easy, but once he got the hang of it, the concept caught on. Carrots could be wind instruments — flutes, panpipes and clarinets, or, as Mr. Stuckenbruck called them, carronets. (The reed is often made from a slice of sweet potato.)

“Depending on the depth of the cavity and the size of the mouth hole, butternut squashes could be trumpets, trombones or French horns.

“Over the years, Mr. Stuckenbruck added more instruments. Broccoli and potatoes made melodious flutes. A daikon, a big white radish, made a deep, honking sound like an oboe. Peppers, with their seeds, were natural maracas.”

More at the New York Times, here, where you can learn which leafy vegetables are good for a sound like scratching a record. Also, be sure to check out the array of instruments on the vegetable orchestra’s home page, here.

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Photo: Iñaki LL

One of my Facebook friends shared an entertaining page on “rare and strange instruments” (you have to see it to believe it), leading me to seek more information on an instrument called the txalaparta. It may not be as unusual as the piano that makes cats meow but is nevertheless worthy of investigation.

According to Wikipedia, the txalaparta is “a specialized Basque music device of wood or stone. In some regions of the Basque Country, zalaparta (with [s]) means ‘racket,’ while in others (in Navarre) txalaparta has been attested as meaning the trot of the horse, a sense closely related to the sound of the instrument. …

“During the last 150 years, txalaparta has been attested as a communication device used for funeral (hileta), celebration (jai) or the making of slaked lime (kare), or cider (sagardo). After the making of cider, the same board that pressed the apples was beaten to summon the neighbours. Then, a celebration was held and txalaparta played cheerfully, while cider was drunk. …

“Traditional txalaparta was almost extinct in the 1950s with a handful of pairs of peasants maintaining the tradition. It was then revived by folklorists, such as Jesus and Jose Antonio Artze from the group Ez dok amairu.” Now you can hear it on YouTube, below.

More at Wikipedia.

Video: The Give and Take of Wood and Stone. Oreka Tx Brings Once Threatened Basque Sounds and New Global Resonances to the U.S. in September 2010 and on Nömadak Tx.

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Tom Murphy wrote recently at the Providence Journal about a shop in North Kingstown that will teach you how to build your own guitar.

“Owner Dan Collins and his partner, Ariel Bodman, design and build guitars with the skill and dedication of artists,” writes Murphy. “They talk about the sound produced by different kinds of wood with terms like the ‘color’ and the ‘ring.’ …

“Dan and Ariel have brilliantly carved out a niche in the industry by sharing their deep knowledge and experience with student builders who pay a fee to craft their own custom instruments. With his background in art and hers in music, they give students a much deeper appreciation for their new instruments than they might get walking out of the average music store. …

“Many students become hooked on the experience and come back for a second, third, even a fourth build. ..

“The custom builds, the repairs and the teaching are the business side of Dan Collins’ unique shop, but from 7 to 10 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month, something really extraordinary happens.

“The floors are swept, tools are put away, equipment is pushed aside and the long work bench in the middle of the room is transformed into a banquet table as Shady Lea Guitars holds its ‘open mic night.’

“In a cleared portion of the workshop, there is a well-lit stage and an odd assortment of comfortable old chairs. It’s potluck, so students, customers, friends and enthusiasts alike can share their favorite recipes along with their music. The friendly audience always puts participants at ease, and they respond with heartfelt performances.” More here.

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Asakiyume writes that an old friend visited her and brought along an unusual harp. Asakiyume explains that the nyckelharpa is “a Swedish musical instrument that’s both keyed and bowed.”

That sounds harder than walking and chewing gum. Even the hurdy-gurdy that I hear in the subway doesn’t look as hard as that sounds, and the hurdy-gurdy involves keying and cranking.

“It’s older than the violin,” Asakiyume says of the nyckelharpa, adding, “my friend tells me there are old tapestries and paintings showing the angels playing these nyckelharpa in heaven.”

(Readers of this blog will note that I can seldom resist tidbits about Sweden. Egypt is another favorite. Both for family reasons.)

Here is Asakiyume’s friend playing the nyckelharpa.

 

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