Jumpin’ off the bandwagon, that has been the building of various music related things, to do the artworks for the show, has given me a little breathing space and a chance, therefore, to review where I’m going with my instrument building.
As well, theres the fact that I’ve been going to handmade most Wednesday nights, maybe even tonight, and playing basically the same setup each time and somewhat getting my chops together using that setup of basically acoustic soundmaker into preamps then the looper (RC-2) followed, or preceded by, the delay (DD-7) and this time of really trying to dig the most out of a basically unchanging setup has got me thinking about my whole approach to instrument building.
Basically it comes down to about three catagories that I can spend time on, not including the actual performance issues but alluding to them as the primary motivation… if indeed it is the primary motivation,and they are instrument making, preamp and amp making and signal processing or effects.
Sound generation, sound modification and sound reinforcement. The sound generation can be broken down into the two categories of electronic and acoustic and to a certain extent this is the case with modification, with electronic being predominant but acoustic being somewhat more interesting, and while this is the overall breakdown the ways in which these sound articles come into being can be further broken down into the areas of mechanical and electronic by defining the working methods to bring things into being.
So an amplifier is basically electronic but its construction is mainly mechanical as it needs to be in an enclosure of some sort and this enclosure needs to be able to hold all the parts and be reliable in doing its job. The thing is I’m realising that the mechanical part of making all this stuff is, by far, of a much greater interest to me than the electronics, except for valve amps which, because of the nature of the components, is quite mechanical as regards the building thereof.
This is all to say that as I tidy up the big mess left over from creating artworks I’m thinking about, instead of launching into a bunch of circuit board etching to create more sound modifiers that don’t actually do much, I’d be far better off attending to unfinished projects of a more mechanical nature.
Last monday night I did Vitamin S with an assortment of tubes! Not vacuum tubes but real tubes as in various lengths of plastic from thick black drainage pipe that are used in under-road supply and waste, 3 lengths at 150mm x at least 2mtrs long, plus some plastic tubing that fabric sellers roll up on, 60mm dia, and some 30mm conduit for electrical supplies. I tied most of it to the roofracks on my car and took in a hammer, pliers, a few lengths of wood and a roll of wire and when I arrived I put it altogether into an instrument vaguely like those built for the from scratch ensemble all those years ago… and it was great fun!
The artwork creation has lifted my head above the musical instrument making and I’m realising that all I wanna do is have fun!
This is gonna take some thinking. Number one I want to explore more of the acoustic properties of instrument making and spend less time on the electronics and knob twiddling. I want to be more in tune with the possibilities of performance as regards the instruments and how I move around them during performance… as opposed to just sitting on my ass and leaning over things.
But, and theres always a but, there is always the compromise one needs to make with any making of things in that they all need to be transported and stored before and after use. I’ve never been worried about artworks because they either sell or I end up giving them away but these instruments put me in the region of keeping the stuff, which has never been a problem before but after a year or two of instrument making they are starting to take up quite a bit of space… And I’m realising they need to built tough to stay functioning through the vagaries of transporting and storing them from place to place.
But it’s almost midday and the money will be in the bank so this time wasting charade is almost over and I can go out into the world and buy more shit I don’t really need.
A functioning Phillips radiogram with EL86 output tubes for $66.00, and an idea for an amp that uses the radio which is mixed through a ring modulator with a high impedance signal input. Those big plate capacitors, which are the tuning dials for the radio could be replaced with a theremin type body capacitance input…
And a whip antenna at 1-3mtrs to do the VLF stuff…