Sunday, 7 December 2014

Silk Threaded Ear Harp

Another experiment with the ear harps, this time trying out silk thread as the string instead of nylon. The reasoning is that a lot of far eastern instruments use silk strings and I have found no way of getting them in this country, or even if they are used anymore.  I approached a company that makes silk thread and asked for a strong thread that might be used to string an instrument, they sent me some samples and I tried them out, yes they were strong enough and yes they produced sound.  So whilst waiting for my next project to surface I thought I would have a go with the silk threads and making my own wooden tuning pegs at the same time, carved in oak, they are okay, not perfect but they do work although they crucify my tennis elbow that is causing so much grief at the moment.  The sound is very pure it doesn't have the richness and depth of the nylon but produces it's own unique sound, very clean.  The wood is ash with lichen and moss on it for added interest and the stand also acts as the listening spur although of course you can hear sound anywhere on the wood.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Film of Romancing the Gibbet

Here is the link the my vimeo site for a film and voxpop of the Over Stowey performance.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Gibbet has been Romanced

The 'Being Human' Festival has finished, Professor Poole and the Gibbet Boys have completed their tour and the equipment has been stowed away.

The events at Over Stowey Village Hall and Warminster Library have proven to be a wonderful success.  The Over Stowey presentation of 'The Ballad of Johny Walford' had an attendance of around 75 people on a saturday morning at 11o'clock which was terrific.  Professor Steve Poole kicked off events with an absorbing talk on gibbeting and hangings which the audience devoured and then asked many a question in the Q&A.
Then poet, writer, performer Ralph Hoyte and I performed our artistic interpretation of events that lead up to the murder of Jane Shorney by Johny Walford, the murder, the trial and the hanging, 45 minutes of sounds from the Gibbet Cart and words from Ralph, again the audience where spellbound by the event, another Q&A and that was that.  Part of the performance was filmed and vox pops at the end, this I will post onto my vimeo site soon and I will notify when.

The event the following saturday again at 11.00 was held in Warminster Library as near as we could get to the hanging site.  The story of George Carpenter and George Ruddock was very different, the murder much darker and evil.  Again Professor Poole started proceeding with his lecture and again it provoked lots of questions.  Ralph and I performed our set, very different this time, still the Gibbet Cart but a more menacing evocation.  Audience appreciation was again manifest and these two events have proved extremely popular and a thought provoking way of dealing with a tricky but enthralling subject matter.  We would love to take this further and research more Gibbet sites and do more gigs/events.  Please contact me if you would be interested in putting on such an event.

The working of the Gibbet Cart

Michael and Ralph during Q&A

A still from a film that Nathan Hughes will be producing about the Ballad of Johny Walford

Friday, 17 October 2014

Romancing the Gibbet

As promised details of the two performances

Numbers for Bottle Kiln Court

So the jobbing work is completed and all the numbers are finished for Bottle Kiln Court in West Brierley, in the West Midlands.  The numbers will go onto the houses and flats and the bronzes into the paving.  It is always good to use artists to create something unique for these housing ventures and it takes foresight from the companies in this case Lioncourt Homes.  We need more enterprising companies using the skills of artists in our society that seems to be depleting artists from their normal source of income ie just creating art, because less we forget art is fundamentally important in a healthy society.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Being Human Festival

 'Being Human' Festival with Ralph Hoyte, Professor Steve Poole and myself will be talking and performing  our piece: 'Romancing the Gibbet' at Over Stowey Village Hall on the 15th of November more details to come and in Warminster on the 22nd November.  The Over Stowey performance relates to the hanging of Johnny Walford, Professor Steve Poole will enlighten people as to what happened and Ralph Hoyte will be creating a ballad, and I will accompany on my new Gibbet Cart Instrument.
This is an event not to be missed and free to the public, more details soon, check on Facebook.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tick Tock Trebuchet

Tick Tock Trebuchet is the prototype for the 'Ballad of the Paddled Ore' but instead of having a piano at the base it has two wire strings that sound as the pendulum strokes them. The beaten copper wings are blown by the wind or a person to produce the movement which activates the sound.
Link to the video:

Two stones screwed to the base for weighting the pendulum

Enclosing the strings

Checking the movement of the pendulum

The top added

The beaten copper wings

Monday, 29 September 2014

Ballad of the Paddled Ore video link

So here it is the vimeo link to the video of 'Ballad of the Paddled Ore'

Monday, 22 September 2014

Ballad of the Paddled Ore

Now back in Britain after a fantastic time at I-Park in Connecticut.  So the main commission is this, a pendulum, a holding unit, the strings and soundboard of a piano, all thrown together with massive help from the brothers Steve and Bill plus Gary who dismantled and rebuilt the stone wall!  The pendulum is weighted so it gentle moves in the wind thus enabling the plumb bobs and fishing weights to move back and forth against the the strings of the piano this creates sound.  The sculpture was part of the 'Illuminations' show at I-Park so it was lit with the help and expertise of Scott and Tom. at night the sculpture took on a whole new persona and became quite a menacing presence.  Videos will follow on my vimeo account at a later date.

carrying the piano to site

Steve and Bill making the base

Gary rebuilding the stone wall

The weights and plumb bobs (noise makers)

Tom fixing the interior lights

Lights at night

Sunday, 7 September 2014

I-Park revisited

Well here I am again for the third year running at I-Park in Connecticut USA. I met up with Ralph Crispino who runs  I-Park in New York and we travelled up together. My task this time to to create a private commission for Ralph and to make something for an auction event that they are running to raise funds.
Ralph and I talked at length to decide what I might make and where in the grounds, eventually we came up with a great site as part of a stone wall that traverses the park.  The concept was borne from my first visit when I fell in love with the Piano Field and saw an open piano having its strings struck by falling acorns and creating sound.
So for this piece I wanted to create a pendulum with a number of attachments that move when the wind blows and the attachments/hitters strike the strings on the bed of a piano.  I found the perfect piano guts with an array of scary spiders, that every time I struck a note came out of the soundboard to see who was disturbing their peace!  Bill and Steve took the heavy piano (cast iron) near to the site. Ralph and I helped them move it to site, meantime Gary had been clearing stones from the wall so we can incorporate it into the walls line. The piano is now sitting waiting the construction of the base that  will act as a framework to hold the pendulum in position, that framework will then be covered in stones so only the pendulum is visible and the general visual aesthetic is one of a cairn, all be it a piano cairn.  He lies the buried piano who on windy days, sounds are carried of its distant memory.
Whilst this has been going on and to help understand the concept I have made another piece which will be auctioned on the Saturday. This one I will make the strung part myself and it will be struck by a lone hitter at the base of the pendulum, this is made from oak, and during the making of it I have had to drive (first time in USA and an automatic) to Shagbark the local hardware, lumber, toolshop, which has been fun.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Sea's Edge

More music out in the soundcloud arena:  The Sea's Edge. All created on my own sculpted instruments.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Walking Stick Harp

I found the bottom piece of oak in my wood a few years ago and it has sat around my studio waiting for me to come up with something that would do it justice, now of course I am creating these musical instruments the problem was solved and 'The Walking Stick Harp' has been created.  The bottom strings can be struck with a purpose built stick/plectrum or played by hand, one listens to the top angular section of the walking stick that is charred and inserted into the oak, the sound as has been consistent with all my listening harps is transmitted through the wood and is heard with a resonance and timbre that cannot be heard acoustically.

I have also started the numbers for the Bottle Kiln Court project in West Brierley, this is a slow job. I am off to America again in September for a commission at I-Park.  Busy times.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Bowl Harp Bench

A five metre long bench with an oak bowl harp between two trees, one living at Wiveliscombe Primary School, with help from my son Solomon.  The bench is for the reception children in a newly created space behind their block.

Bottle Kiln Court Bronzes

Back to the jobbing stuff and some bronze plaques for the paving at Bottle Kiln Court project in Brierly Hill, these I have Ferric Chlorided from a vinyl stencil. There are nine in total.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Log Ear Harp

  So rattling along in my workshop making work for the SAW open studios in September and October, especially now as I am going to I-Park again to create a sound artwork in the grounds there in the first two weeks of September.  I also have a sound bench to make for Wiveliscombe Primary School over the next few weeks, so full steam ahead but in the meantime here is my Log Ear Harp which sounds fantastic and I love the natural hole that looks like a headphone, perfect wood choosing there!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014


The KeyHarp is made of charred oak and strung with four piano wires tuned, the sound resonants through the oak creating a lovely sound that holds its note for a good length of time.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Monday, 30 June 2014

Analogue Harp

You have seen the photographs, read the text, now watch the movie on my vimeo site:

Coming soon:  The Root Bole Harp.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Analogue Harp and Root Bole Harp

These two fallen trees were perfect to become a long stringed sound instrument, lying on the forest floor at Heydon Hill wood in somerset.  I first chainsawed horizontally along the length leaving three bridges and two sections for the placement of the piano tuning keys.  I also created a much shorter section which I hollowed.  I then shallowed gouged the surface of the wood to create the suitable texture.  I then removed all the side branches bar two which were to be my listening spurs, this is where you listen to the sound of the strings transmitted through the wood.  I proceeded to wire up the tree with piano wire and tune to my ear and not notes as such.  A person listening to the sounds leapt up in astonishment and declared, "it sounds like vinyl"  because of this I just had to call the piece 'analogue'.

The length of tree

The joy of playing and listening, there is a small listening point carved so one can play and listen.  The sounds produced from the strings and transmitted through the tree are a treasure, a timbre of tremendous depth which can only be heard in the tree.  Beyond the two listening spurs are the end of the tree, I have left a few branches intact and even here the sound can be heard, every bit of the tree transmits sound.

The whole tree comes alive to sound and a much gentler sound is heard sitting at the end by the root, where a natural cave has been produced by the tree falling over, to sit here is to listen to a magical quite ethereal sound.

The listening bud enabling you to play both the long and short strings and listen.

The surface

The Root Bole Harp.

detail of the strings

Play the Root Bole Harp and listen on the root listening spur
This again produced a fantastic sound transmitted from tree to root.