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Art Music

In 'No Strings,' Willie Cole Transforms Instruments into Abstract Animals and Figurative Sculptures

March 17, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Piano Bird” (2021), piano legs, keys, and wiring, 34 x 32 1/2 x 42 inches. Photo by Joerg Lohse. All images courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York, shared with permission

Artist Willie Cole is known for transforming discarded materials into sculptures with a tenor of interrogation. Much of his three-dimensional work revolves around found objects like high-heels, plastic bottles, or ironing boards that he turns into pieces of cultural commentary, addressing issues of mass production, historical legacies, and identity. The items tend to guide the formation of his assemblages, he says, sharing that, “the objects that I use I see as them finding me, more so than me finding them… I see an object and suddenly I recognize what I can do with the object. So in that sense, there is an energy or spirit connection to the object. I am exploring the possibilities of these objects.”

Cole’s solo show No Strings, which opens this April at Alexander and Bonin in New York, exemplifies this approach. The artist, who’s currently living and working in New Jersey, recovered guitars, saxophones, and pianos from Yamaha’s recycling program and through his usual alchemy, has created anthropomorphic creatures and abstracted figures from their parts: he converts hammers into tail feathers and spliced acoustic bodies into dogs and anonymous musicians. The pieces are expressive and tied to the endurance of America’s past, particularly drawing a connection between the guitar’s shape and the yokes forced on people who were enslaved.

In addition to the upcoming No Strings show, you can see a few of Cole’s sculptures in the ongoing Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room at The Met, and explore more of his works on his site and Instagram.

 

“Yamaha Dog 1” (2021), Yamaha 3/4 size acoustic guitar parts, 23 1/2 x 12 x 29 inches. Photo by Joy Whalen

“Two-Faced Blues” (2021), Yamaha acoustic-electric guitar parts, 23 x 29 x 15 1/2 inches. Photo by Joy Whalen

“Yamaha Dog 2” (2021), Yamaha 3/4 size acoustic guitar parts, 18 5/8 x 11 x 27 inches. Photo by Joy Whalen

“Picker” (2022), Yamaha 3/4 size acoustic guitar parts, 27 x 15 x 15 inches. Photo by Joy Whalen

“Joy” (2021), Yamaha 3/4 size acoustic guitar parts, 44 1/2 x 22 x 7 1/2 inches. Photo by Joerg Lohse

“Strummer” (2022), Yamaha 3/4 size acoustic guitar parts, 28 x 16 1/2 x 15 inches. Photo by Joy Whalen

 

 



Music Photography

In 'Architecture in Music,' Striking Photos Reveal the Hidden Structures of Instruments

January 26, 2022

Grace Ebert

1780 Lockey Hill Cello. All images © Charles Brooks, shared with permission

A cellist since childhood, Auckland-based photographer Charles Brooks spent twenty years performing with orchestras around the world, an experience that incited curiosity about the inner workings of the instruments surrounding him. “I never really knew what was going on inside. That was a realm reserved for the luthier. Occasionally, when an instrument was being repaired, you’d get a rare glimpse inside, which was always a thrilling experience,” he shares with Colossal.

This interest culminates in Brooks’s ongoing Architecture in Music series, which peers inside pianos, winds, brass, and strings to unveil their hidden anatomies. Structural and often flanked by repeating elements, the composite images frame the shadows cast by a cello’s F holes, the seemingly endless rungs of a flute’s sound chamber, and a piano’s row of hammers, all of which appear more like buildings or public infrastructure than musical components. “I was always interested in the psychology of how our mind interprets scale in a two-dimensional image. I’d been fascinated by the tilt-shift effect, which made big things look small by blurring part of the image, and I wanted to know if I could make small things look big by keeping everything sharp,” he says.

 

Fazioli Grand Piano

In order to preserve each instrument while photographing, Brooks used a probe lens with a “minimum aperture of just f/14, which means you need a tremendous amount of light. It also has a very shallow depth of field at that aperture, less than a centimeter when you’re focusing close to the lens.” Each foray into an instruments’ body revealed a similarity between brands—the Steinway and Fazioli grand pianos were nearly identical—and many contained markings and residue from repairs that dated back centuries. “Some instruments really surprised me,” he shares. “I’d never thought to look inside a Didgeridoo before and was astonished to find out that it was carved by termites, rather than by hand!”

Prints of Architecture in Music are available in Brooks’s shop, and you can find much more of his work on Instagram. (via swissmiss)

 

Steinway Model D Grand Piano

14K Gold Flute

Fazioli Grand Piano

Steinway Model D Grand Piano

Steinway Model D Grand Piano

Didgeridoo by Trevor Gillespie Peckham (Bungerroo) Australia

2021 Selmer Saxophone

 

 



Design Music

Repurposed Barcode Scanners Roll Across a Miniature Skate Park to Produce Glitchy Electronic Beats

September 21, 2021

Grace Ebert

Using random objects to build homemade hand drums or maraca-style instruments isn’t new, but the team behind the ongoing Electronicos Fantasticos project takes the idea of repurposing unwanted materials to an imaginative level. Led by Ei Wada (previously), the Japanese musicians have spent the last few years recycling retail scanners and their barcode counterparts into synthesizer-like instruments, capitalizing on the product’s original function to produce rhythmic tracks and samples. Their recent design adds a playful twist to the concept by attaching the plastic devices to miniature skateboards that roll across ramps and down flat surfaces printed with black-and-white stripes. In addition to the musical component that’s similar to scratching an LP, it’s worth watching the group’s performances as they slide and riff on different barcodes, which you can find on Instagram and YouTube.

 

 

 

 



Music

An Open Pipeline Echoes This Inventive Saxophonist's Notes in Perfectly Tuned Accompaniment

June 30, 2020

Grace Ebert

Saxophonist Armin Küpper has mastered the effects of live looping without the necessary equipment to record and replay tracks. Instead, the musician heads to a nearby site storing a lengthy pipeline and positions his bell near the opening. As he plays, the delayed notes echo in perfect pitch, creating an polyphony as he blares out the next line. Check out more of Küpper’s tunes below, and head to YouTube to keep up with his inventive performances. (via Laughing Squid)

 

 

 



Music

Beatbox Like a World Champion with This 13-Step Tutorial by Butterscotch

April 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

Sure, you can spend your time during quarantine reading a dozen books or scrubbing your cabinets, but what about learning to beatbox from a world champion? Vocal percussionist Butterscotch recently released a 13-step tutorial that guides novices through various beatboxing techniques, from the basic baseline and snare—or what she calls Boots and Cats—all the way to singing and live looping. And for those who have a hard time keeping a beat, the musician even outlines a breathing technique that makes it easier to stay steady. Check out Butterscotch’s Instagram to keep up with her impressive musical projects. (via Kottke)

 

 



Music

The Enchanting Echoes of the Cristal Baschet, a Rare Organ Made of Glass Rods, Metal, and Wood

March 14, 2020

Andrew LaSane

Invented in 1952 by Bernard and François Baschet, the Cristal Baschet (also called a Crystal Organ) is a unique instrument that outputs an even more unique and artful sound. In the video above, multi-instrumentalist and film composer Marc Chouarain explains how it works and demonstrates techniques for turning finger rubs and drags into deep melodic echoes.

According to musician and rare instrument performer Thomas Bloch, models of the crystal organs range from 3.5 to 6 octaves and are made of 56 chromatically tuned glass rods. To play it, musicians rub the rods with wet fingertips. “The vibration of the glass is passed on to the heavy block of metal by a metal stem whose variable length determines the frequency,” Bloch explains. “Amplification is obtained by fiberglass cones fixed on wood and by a tall cut out metal part, in the shape of a flame. ‘Whiskers’ (moustaches), placed under the instrument, to the right, increase the sound power of high-pitched sounds in vibrating by sympathy.”

Ravi Shankar, Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Daft Punk, Radiohead, Tom Waits, and Manu Dibango are among the musical acts who have used the Cristal Baschet, according to an official Baschet Sound Structures Association brochure. For more from Chouarain, check out his Facebook page. (via Twisted Sifter)