1996. Musical Instrument Design - Practical Information for Instrument Making

As with entirely too many of the books that I'm listing on my "Books" webpage(s), this is included simply because I'm mentioned in it - in this case in the Acknowledgments. I'm deeply honored to be mentioned in this list at all & to be included with such luminaries as François Baschet, Glenn Branca, Bill Colvig, Hugh Davies, Lou Harrison, & all the rest who're more deserving of their inclusions than I am. Thank you, Bart.

The author of this book, Bart Hopkin, was the editor of Experimental Musical Instruments magazine, which was published from 1985 to 1999. 19 years after its demise I still miss it as one of the greatest music magazines I've ever been fortunate enough to know of. It's in the company of Source, Musicworks, & OPEN SPACE.

Here's a link to a movie I made about one of the experimental musical instrument makers that I 1st learned of in the magazine: "Ernie Althoff, April 20, 2000, April 25, 2000" .

This 1990 issue was the 1st one I had a contribution in. It was a piece about my "Portable booed usic Busking Unit". A movie of this in use in a shopping mall in Dundee, Scotland, is here: "Murraygate Busking".

The photographs for the above article were taken by John Berndt

After each volume was finished, Bart released an audio cassette called "From the Pages of EXPERIMENTAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS" which featured recordings of the instruments represented in that volume. I had the honor of having work on 2 of them (Volumes VI & 12). For the 1st of these, part of the sound of the booed usic busking unit at "Murraygate" was used. I also included some of the same sound on my 2nd record: "Usic minus the square root of negative one".

Hence, when Bart asked me to contribute to what became the "Orbitones" CD, I didn't want to use the same recording again.

I did, however, want to use something from the busking unit because I liked that better than my main other homemade instrument of the time, the "Terrence Dougherty". The busking unit was broken & a limited amount of recordings had been made with it, none of them of 'professional quality'.

I knew that the publisher of the CD, Ellipsis Arts..., would want a very clean recording but the best one I had available was the one I'd already used twice that I didn't want to reuse. Because of this, I chose to use a recording from a street performance at Leicester Square, London, UK on Saturday, May 28, 1988.

The busking unit incorporated a PXL-2000 toy vaudeo (video) camcorder that I used to either show prefabricated movies or to shoot live footage with. There was a small tv in the middle of the busking unit suitcase face that showed the movies.

At Leicester Square, the PXL was used to shoot footage of the busking. The sound is very noisy but it includes crowd sounds & a nearby church bell tolling. As such, the recording is strongly representative of the rough & ready busking unit at work in its intended guerrilla-intruded environment. The busking unit was meant to be a portable concrete mixing studio in places where such a thing wouldn't ordinarily be. It wasn't intended to be a studio instrument.

Alas, predictably enough, my submission to the CD was rejected. I've always taken it for granted that the extremely lo-fi (or, as I prefer, 'sci-fi') quality is what was nixed. Too bad. I would've really liked to've been on the compilation - which was truly fantastic.

In retrospect, of course, I wish I'd just made a cleaner recording & sent it to them. Such opportunities don't come knocking more than once.

I met Bart in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Arts Center where I was presenting a program of political activist (IMP ACTIVIST) movies on February 6, 2003 & we probably went out for drinks & conversation later. He was, & is, a great guy, a unique person whose contributions to the world of instrument building may never be equalled. It's nice to be able to praise someone 100% with 100% sincerity. Bart is the man.







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