We were fascinated to see a new video from The Creators Project recently — it explores the work of South Korean artist Viktor Jan, and specifically a home-made Traktor controller he’s made that starts or stops various loops as you put them in and take them out of a kitchen saucepan. The device blurs the line between art and utility, but it does call to mind all the weird and wonderful ways you can make music if you step outside the idea of using the same prefabricated instruments that everyone else does. Here are some other weird and wonderful homemade instruments — some are used by famous musicians, and others are pleasantly bizarre YouTube discoveries.
Mica Levi’s vacuum cleaner
Micachu’s pleasantly headache-inducing debut album Jewellery was full of all sorts of unusual sounds, many of them produced by unlikely objects. Perhaps the most famous is the vacuum cleaner she breaks out every so often, but she also uses broken bottles, a homemade guitar, and “a bowed instrument fashioned from a CD rack.” (It’s nice to see someone has a use for a CD rack in 2013, eh?)
Pink Grease’s Machine (and its toothbrush)
We mentioned flamboyant 2000s party starters Pink Grease in our post last week about post-glam glam albums, and one of the most endearing things about them was that band member Nick Collier wielded a colossal home-built synthesizer called The Machine. The thing was the size of a suitcase and sported a bewildering array of knobs and dials, but the key to its unusual sound was a toothbrush, which Collier used… well, we’re not really sure how he used it, to be honest, but he was never seen without it, as far as we recall. You can see The Machine, along with its inventor and his toothbrush, in the still used for the video above.
The Viennese Vegetable Orchestra
Yes, they’re from Vienna. Yes, they’re an orchestra. And yes, they play vegetables. Lots and lots of vegetables. If you’ve ever wanted to hear classical music played on a carrot flute or a leek violin, then, um, look no further.
Nick Cave’s jackhammer
Given his somewhat urbane image these days, it’s easy to forget what a hellraiser Cave was in his early years. The Birthday Party generally sounded like being inside a car crash, and if you listen carefully to his debut single, “From Her to Eternity,” there’s something that sounds awfully like a jackhammer clattering away in the mix. We’re guessing it was wielded by Blixa Bargeld, speaking of whom…
Einsturzende Neubaten’s inventions
The legendary German noiseniks have been making weird and wonderful instruments for decades, largely thanks to the endlessly inventive work of N. U. Unruh, who constructed his first sheet metal drum kit because he couldn’t afford his rent, let alone actual drums. We particularly like his use of a shopping cart: “We were just using it for transport reasons, and after a while I just put a contact mic onto the wiring of the basket, and dragged a stick along the side. Why not? It sounded great!”
A homemade theremin
Did you know you can apparently make a theremin using three AM radios? Neither did we.
Diego Stocco’s arsenal of contraptions
California sound designer Diego Stocco has made a career of making music with the most unlikely of instruments. The video above, for instance, finds him putting together a pretty decent-sounding beat with a computer, some mics, and, er, a bonsai tree. You can read more about his work here — clicking through will take you to the only place where you will ever read the sentence, “Corn Flakes become a surprisingly wonderful accompaniment to haunting piano pieces.”
The Low Anthem’s handsaw
Playing the saw isn’t exactly a new idea, but few bands put it to such good use as The Low Anthem, who seem to delight in making use of every obscure and esoteric instrument they can possibly lay their hands on.
As per his website, “Felix Thorn builds machines for art installations, live performance, commercials, theatre accompaniment, and shop window displays.” He does so by making his machines out of pretty much anything he can lay his hands on — being as we’re book geeks at heart, we were particularly taken by the Moleskine orchestra (above).
An HP scanner
At last, someone finds a use for one of those awful cheap scanner/printer hybrids that neither scans nor prints!