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March 12, 2003

Posted by Teresa at 09:40 AM *

Lo here, the Oddmusic gallery of “unique, unusual, ethnic, or experimental” musical instruments, with pictures and, in most cases, sound bites. They’re fascinating, though many of them should be strictly reserved for use in cheesy skiffy movies.

A few of the experiments are more successful. The cymbalom turns out to be the weird hammered dulcimer plus fingertip “bowhammers” some guy (if it’s the same one, his name is Michael Masley) was playing one afternoon on the sidewalk opposite the convention center during the San Jose worldcon. I was there, and it sounded pretty good.

The prize of the lot is the extraordinarily resonant bazantar, invented by Mark Deutsch. It’s
… a five-string acoustic bass, fitted with an additional twenty-nine sympathetic strings and four drone strings. The instrument possesses a melodic range of over five octaves, while its sympathetic range spans four octaves.
That five-octave melodic range takes it well up into ‘cello territory, and it’s as playable as any other acoustic bass—a real instrument, not just a noisemaker. Here are some longer samples from Deutsch’s composition for unaccompanied bazantar, The Painted Bird.

But overall, I liked the rarities and historical oddities better. Stroviols and Swagerty ukeleles (including the kook-a-le-le and the treholipee)—who knew? Also the very cool contrabass saxophone in E-flat, which is what they send out to rough you up if they hear you’ve been abusing piccolos. The monster sax can be heard on the soundtrack of How the Grinch Stole Christmas; there’s a sample of it onsite. The gallery’s notes say “Its power and presence of sound is indescribable.” I’ll bet. (Thank you, Andrew Phillips.)

Comments on Oddmusic:
#1 ::: Damien Warman ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:14 AM:

Wow. This is cool.

ObCello: must learn to play that some more. To get 5 octaves must require some funky harmonic action in what, 7th position? Ow. Surely I have some du Pre9 around here somewhere...

#2 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 12:58 PM:

The V&A has a spiffy collection of antique instruments as well, but of course you can't hear them.


#3 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 02:49 PM:

That's quite a collection. I suppose they left out the Hardart as being too much of a joke and
not enough of an instrument, but the multiple playing methods of the cymbalom come close.

I wonder how the Bazantar is tuned to get 5 melodic octaves; 5-string acoustic basses are almost required in symphony orchestras, but the strings only span a 12th (1.6 octaves), making their range more like 4 octaves. (The bazantar site has a lot of handwaving leaning towards woowoo, but I didn't see specifics.)

Must go home and listen to some of the sounds....

#4 ::: Janice ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 04:03 PM:

I especially liked the 'Zedrin Thumb Piano.

I have a secret weakness for kalimbas though.

I also liked the Singing Stones.

#5 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2003, 04:10 PM:

There's also, in a somewhat similar vein, the Museum of Soviet Synthesizers.

#6 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 04:59 PM:

How interesting! Thanks for all of the tips Theresa, I do almost no surfing of my own so it is always a mind expanding treat to follow your links. The music teachers are going to love this!

#7 ::: John Pascuzzi ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2003, 06:19 PM:

Hi guys, glad you like the site!

-- jp

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