Category Archives: found instruments

(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.

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Experimental music for kids on PBS

Every weekday morning, my kids and I enjoy some public television programming while we eat breakfast and get ready for our day. It’s probably just a coincidence, but the PBS morning programming for the last two days seems to have been themed towards experimental music.

One of my favorite television shows of all time is Arthur. The stories and morals are great, there are a lot of in-jokes for the grownups (always a plus in any children’s programming, as far as I’m concerned), and there have been some excellent guest appearances, including some great musical guests such as Yo-Yo Ma, Taj Mahal, and Koko Taylor.

Most episodes of Arthur contain two short stories, and the first story in yesterday’s episode was titled “DW Beats All.” In it, Arthur’s younger sister DW decides she wants to perform in Elwood City’s annual music festival, the Summer Serenade – but she doesn’t have the time to learn and practice a new instrument before then. After much thought, she devises a plan.

On the day of the festival, DW takes the stage wearing several noisemakers as her father wheels out a cart filled with even more. She then performs a piece of music on these found instruments – a hammer on a metronome strikes a pan, a fan blows cutlery and windchimes, she rubs her sandpapered feet on the floor, squeaks a rubber duck, plays a broken See-N-Say toy, and much more. At the climax of the song, an egg timer sounds, and DW opens an agitated can of soda – a soda coda!

The performance is very reminiscent of John Cage’s Water Walk, which I linked to in an earlier post. At the end of the story, DW taps the family car with a drumstick, and says that she plans to build something even bigger next time.

Another great kids show on PBS is Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman, where an animated dog sends a group of live-action young people on various missions to exercise their gray matter. This morning’s episode had him sending two members of his team to hang out with the Blue Man Group, where they learned to spit balls of paint at a canvas and play some PVC pipe instruments.

I don’t think my opinion of the Blue Man Group needs to be expressed. It can be safely assumed. If you’re not familiar with the Blue Men and their incredible work, be sure to check out the links at the bottom of this post.

It was great to see these two episodes about experimental music and found instruments. Thanks, PBS, for helping to foster the next generation of musical explorers!

(Oh yeah, and I still want these Blue Man toys something fierce:

Click the pics to find out more on amazon.com

Errr… I mean my kids want them. *ahem* )

Learn more: Arthur episode 909a synopsis | Wikipedia: Blue Man Group | Explanations of Blue Man Instruments | Blue Man Videos on YouTube

Turn around, bright eyes…

How can anyone ever improve upon a piece of work like Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart? The passion and urgency of Bonnie’s throaty vocals, the bombast of Jim Steinman’s rock-opera arrangement… who could possibly attempt to rethink such a masterpiece?

Hurrah Torpedo, that’s who! This Norwegian trio puts their hearts and souls (and, in one case, ‘bottom cleavage’) into a timeless homage to the anthemic classic. Performed on guitar, chest freezer, and two ovens (one played with some sort of small club, the other with a large metal trash masher), this stirring performance is surely a fitting tribute to Tyler and Steinman’s magnum opus.

Watch it here – but get the tissues handy first!

(Just a mild warning – one of the percussionists in this video has a severe case of ‘plumber-butt’…)

Sadly, Hurrah Torpedo’s site appears to be circling the drain. At one time there were fantastic videos of innocent bystanders being subjected to their music. Nowadays, there’s hardly anything there but the occasional blurb in Norwegian. It’s a pity.

More!: All the Things She Said | Toxic | lots of interviews and stuff

Classic John Cage performance


(courtesy of boing boing and WFMU) – John Cage performs “Water Walk” on this classic 1960 clip from the gameshow “I’ve Got A Secret.” Instruments used in this piece include a prepared piano, four radios, a bathtub, water pitcher, pressure cooker, seltzer bottle, a rubber duck, and much more.

My favorite part of the pre-interview would have to be when host Garry Moore (no, not THAT Gary Moore) asks: “Mr. Cage, these are nice people but some of them are going to laugh. Is that alright?”

Cage’s response: “Of course. I consider laughter preferable to tears.”

Click here to watch it on YouTube, or visit WFMU’s entry to download the video and watch it over and over (like I’ve been doing).