January 2018: Making Sounds With Light: Building electronic sounds with photoresistors

As a part of my music-making practice, I endeavor to build a variety electronic music devices, drone machines and synthesizers. The construction and operation of such machines adds so much understanding and interaction with the process of music creation, the value cannot be overstated. While I don’t use home-built synthesizers in everything I record, when employed they add a unique textural character and tonal quality that is hard to replicate with VSTs, samples or acoustic instruments. These machines are occasionally used as the protagonist / primary voice in a track, but most often relegated to tonal, drone or textural accompaniment, similar to the way in which Indian classical music utilizes the tanpura or the drone pipes of a bagpipe. The frustration and time-consumption of building one’s own instruments is balanced by the gratification of knowing the end-product is likely to be something wholly unique. I like to build them into old equipment that is destined for the landfill— I think they look great and it give me a chance to reuse some of the original circuitry.

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January 2018: What the heck is a Marxophone? 

To most Americans, the word zither sounds exotic and strange. But there is an entire class of instruments, dating back thousands of years that fall into the classification. From the Chinese guqin to the Japanese koto, to the German concert zither, to the American fretless zither, this type instrument is universal and found nearly everywhere....

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January 2018: Recording with antique Deagan marimba

 The history of North American instrument manufacturers is a deep well of interesting personalities and innovation. Of those, John Cahoun Deagan (of J.C. Deagan, Inc. of Chicago) is particularly notable with his line of early-20th century idiophone instruments. He pioneered quality and tuning in glockenspiels, marimbas and xylophones, and in what later became what we now call the vibraphone (the development of which has its own interesting story)....

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