Musical Presents 2

I wrote in a previous blog how much I like making music using all manner of things. In fact if I can get something to make an interesting sound then the chances are I’m going to end up sticking it in a recording somewhere.

I also mentioned that I am very difficult person to buy Birthday and Christmas presents for, mainly because I end up getting too excited about something and I can’t wait, so I ending up getting it myself. I obviously have no self control.

So before Christmas in 2009 I said that if people didn’t know what to get me they should get me anything, be it a musical instrument or not, that makes any kind of interesting noise. I got some really lovely things, a number of which have made it on to my album Parkview, which I am currently working on.

When Christmas 2010 came around, I was lucky to again to be given another lot of very interesting things to play around with.

Firstly, perhaps to compliment the Rainmaker from the year before, Wanda gave me a Thunder Maker:

Thunder Maker

I really love this thing. If you kind of wave it around a bit it makes a low rumbling, get a bit more energetic and you may think about grabbing your umbrella, wave it around like a madman and it sounds like the world is collapsing around you. The thunder seems to be happening in D as well, which is interesting as it means I may be able to turn it into some kind of instrument that can be played in the keyboard. There are all sounds of odd metallic sounds you can make with it by bashing the metal spring that comes out of it which will make good percussion noises.

I also a got a Mbira, also known as a Thumb Piano:

Mbira Thumb Piano

You pluck the metal keys with your fingers and it sounds like a Xylophone crossed with a Glockenspiel.

A Singing Bowl:

Singing Bowl

You run the wooden stick around the edge of the bowl and the vibrations make the bowl start to ring out the note of C. What is lovely about it is that as well as the note, you can also pick out harmonic overtones that start to make it sound like a chord is playing (apparently this is to do with the metal being an alloy). This reminds me a lot of my Shruti Box so it will be fun to play around with the two of them together.

A kids toy called a Clatter Pillar (do you see what they’ve done there?):

Clatter Pillar

You kind of flick it with your wrist and it makes a sound that’s like a cross between a Güiro and a Football Rattle.

Another toy called a Tub Tunes Water Whistle:

Water Whistle

It may look like a turkey baster, but the idea is that you stick the end of it in the bath and use the depth of the water to tune the notes you play.

Finally John & Maggie got me something I can scarcely believe that I have never had before, a Stylophone:

Stylophone

The Stylophone is probably the classic ‘Toy’ musical instrument and it really is a lovely thing that is a great deal of fun to play. Obviously this is a modern version as they stopped making the original models in 1975, which means it gets a few extras that the original didn’t have. These include a volume control (famously missing from the very loud original units) and two new sounds in addition to the original one. They have famously been used by a number of great musicians over the years including David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Orbital, Jack White and Pulp and I can’t wait to use it myself.

So there you go. Judging by the presents, I was clearly a good boy in 2010. So don’t go believing anything that liar Father Christmas tells you.

Stephen.

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