Monthly Archives: June 2007

While My Guitar Gently Beats

Sorry for the missing weeks, fellow explorers – I’ve started some new work, and haven’t had as much free time to post to the blog. Here’s a little something to make it up to you – people beating and banging on perfectly good guitars:

Erik Mongrain performs “Percusienfa” in this video, and you can find several more performances by him on YouTube.

Andy McKee performs his original piece “Drifting” in this great video. You can also hear him do an amazing cover of Toto’s “Africa” and see him play a harp guitar, while you’re there. (Find out more about Andy at Candyrat Records.)

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Different sets of keys

Tired of the same old humdrum keyboard? Bored with the old -school black-and-white keys in a linear configuration? Do you sometimes find yourself wishing for something with a little more dimension to it?

There are options, you know…

I remember a short blurb in an old issue of Keyboard magazine from the late 80s that mentioned an alternate keyboard layout – one that gave all keys the same profile and clustered them together in a two-dimensional pattern, rather than the linear one that traditional keyboard instruments have always followed.

I set out looking for some information on that layout, but I never found it. I did, however, find several others that look just as interesting:

Consider the Riday T-91 MIDI Controller, with its isometric keys and trackball. The notes are configured so that every scale pattern matches every other, no matter what key it is played in – a much-needed advancement over the antiquated piano format. You may have a bit of trouble finding this one, however – according to the comments on Matrixsynth, it’s been patented, but never saw production.

(Links: Oddmusic | Matrixsynth)

The C-Thru Music Axis uses hex-shaped keys that are arranged based on a harmonic table – not only do all chords and scales follow the same pattern, but major and minor triads can be played with a single finger, allowing for a much broader range of performance. A single hand can span four to five octaves, and complex chords can be formed with just a few fingers. Don’t miss the demo video on YouTube to see how it plays.

(Links: C-Thru Music | YouTube video |

This overgrown typewriter is actually the Chromatone 312, a modern synth based on a key layout designed by Hungarian mathematician Paul von Janko in 1882. That’s right, people were reinventing the keyboard over a hundred years before the days of new wave bands in neon pants.

It, too, uses a hex-shaped key layout that normalizes chord and scale patterns, but the notes are in a different configuration (and not as conducive to single-finger playing).

You can take a peek at some charts that explain the wholetone theory while your waiting for yours to arrive at your door, if you like. Momma, don’t take my Chromatone away…

(Links: MusicThing | Chromatone)

More to come, as I find them. Stay tuned!

It’s Happi Tyme!

Mildred Pitt and Otis Fodder have re-launched Happi Tyme records, and to celebrate, they have made some classic Happi Tyme releases available for free! Head on over and download some found-sound musical fun!

Links: Happi Tyme Records | The Bran Flakes – Bubbles | The Bran Flakes – I Remember When I Break Down | Twizzle – Soda Fountain | MySpace: The Bran Flakes

And now, a brief intermission…

(Thanks to BoingBoing) – Christopher DeLaurenti records performances that most people leave the concert hall for – the collection of sounds that occur during intermissions.

For over seven years, DeLaurenti would attend concert performances donned in a leather vest with micophones sewn into it. At intermission, he would approach the stage to collect the sounds that happened between performances. With over 50 hours of recordings in his catalog, he has now released a CD of “greatest hits,” titled Favorite Intermissions: Music Before and Between Beethoven, Stravinsky, Holst.” From a New York Times article:

The first number, “Holst, Hitherto,” comes from an intermission before a performance of Holst’s “Planets.” It opens with an audience murmur and a clarinet flourish, then a few quiet whumps from a bass drum and a repeated glockenspiel note. A woman laughs. A man says, “Excuse me.” Snare-drum rolls swell, a tambourine shimmers, the timpani thud, a xylophonist plays. (The intermission music seems heavy on percussionists, maybe because they tend to practice so obsessively.)

Then beefy bassoon notes swirl, and a trombone plays exercises in different keys. Soon snatches of melodies from “The Planets” are recognizable. The volume of instruments and crowd noises grows at a steady pace, until a burst of applause greeting the concertmaster quiets everything down. The oboe sounds its tuning A, finally uniting all the instruments. Silence erupts. Mr. DeLaurenti’s first piece ends.

The CD cover for Favorite Intermissions spoofs the well-known Deutsche Grammophon label design, and is released on a label called GD Stereo – which DeLaurenti called a “delicious irony.”

He hopes that his work will inspire others to listen for music at times when they would usually walk away.

“I feel I will have succeeded,” Mr. DeLaurenti said, “if someone merely looks at the package and says, ‘Oh, I should listen next time at intermission and see if I hear something musical.’ ”

Links: NYT article | DeLaurenti’s website

(Drum) Breaking and Entering

Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers is a fantastic short film by Swedish filmmakers Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson about six nefarious percussionists who break into an apartment to perform impromptu pieces of music on found instruments. Watch and enjoy as they compose different pieces in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living room.

I just discovered it today via StumbleUpon – but it seems I’m behind the times. The film was released in 2001, and earned itself a pretty impressive list of awards and nominations.