Maker Faire

Making Instruments, Making Music

Type: Presentation
Program Area: Music

Day/Time: Sunday, April 23 11:00 AM (45 minutes)

Day/Time: Sunday, April 23 11:00 AM (45 minutes)

Location: Maker's Lounge

FORMAT: A show’n’tell panel discussion featuring musician-inventors who have devised their own instruments, from circuit-benders to contact-mic experts to USB-interface enthusiasts. After they discuss their work in a public dialogue, there will be a moderated Q&A session with the audience. And when the Q&A is over, the musicians will jam.

THESIS: There is a growing population of musicians who make their own instruments. The invention of a musical instrument is nothing new, from Wagner’s specialized tuba, to Les Paul’s solid-body electric guitar, to Robert Fripp’s Frippertronic looping hardware. What is new is the prevalence of musical-instrument invention -- from Mix Master Mike’s wah-wah pedal turntables to all manner of “virtual” instruments, resulting from the rise in laptop electronica -- fueled by such disparate phenomena as the DiY punk aesthetic, the logarithmic adoption of personal computing, and the homebrew-tech sphere celebrated by Make magazine.

There are two key components to this “Making Instruments, Making Music” discussion.

The first is the practical circumstance of making an instrument. Is it a matter of discovery or of experimentation? Does one plan a tool and then figure out how to construct it, or does one fiddle with sounds and materials until one devises something sonorous?

The second is matter unique to this sphere of invention: How does making an instrument alter a musician’s understanding of composition? Traditionally, musical composition has bonded two skills: the ability to develop a musical idea, and the ability to transpose that idea to accepted instrumentation. But when simultaneous to producing music one is producing new tools for the expression of that music, what feedback loop exists in the artist’s mind, and how does that play out in the music that the artist produces?

And to bring the questions full circle: To what extent is the improvisation involved in the invention of a musical instrument like the composition of a piece of music?

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The musician-inventors are Krys Bobrowski, Chachi Jones (born Donald Bell) and Univac (aka Tom Koch). Marc Weidenbaum will moderate.