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The Friday Morning Listen: Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones

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Beside all of the usual signs of spring (warm days, cool nights, mud, the snow melting away revealing the junk I “accidentally” left out in the yard), one commonplace phenomenon this time of year is the collection of sap for maple syrup. The pails, buckets, taps, collection hoses, and basins are all over the place around here. The local papers cover things like the maple syrup competitions in area schools.

We like to take part in all of this by going to Saturday morning breakfast at a very rustic restaurant/sugar house where the tables are made from thick slabs of wood, the syrup is made on the premisis, and the pancakes are almost as big as your head.

It’s kind of amazing to see the wide range of equipment used in the collection process. You have your traditional galvanized buckets, plastic pails, huge washtubs covered with plywood, gigantic plastic collection basins…and on it goes. It all reminds me of the New England (this probably fits for all rural areas) tradition of making do with what you have or what you’ve found: wooden pyramids constructed to protect shrubbery from heavy winter snows, bright blue plastic juice drums converted to driveway sand and salt containers, car tires painted white and turned into front yard flower beds.

This stuff also reminds me of some of the music and instruments used on the experimental music collection Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones. Yes, long before Blue Man Group got the (excellent) idea of pressing PVC pipes into service, there were musicians making good with objects like the bamboo saxophone, rainsticks, chunks of metal, bicycle wheels, glass jars and other oddities.

The music on this CD runs from the moderately serious—Don Buchla and Robert Moog playing the Buchla 400, Harry Partch playing the “Harmonic Canon”—to the just plain weird: Hans Reichel playing the Daxophone, a wooden instrument that has a both beautiful and unnerving human vocal quality.

Spring, maple syrup, and musical instruments. As a good friend of mine likes to say, “It’s a big ‘ole world out there”.

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About Mark Saleski

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    Cool, I might just have to pick this up. In our electronic music studio in college, we had an original Buchla synthesizer to go with our Serge. (Our professor was Serge’s brother, Ivan Tcherepnin, RIP.) Even back then in the early 80s, it was like getting to actually work in a museum.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    cool jon. i had never even heard of Buchla until a friend game me the book Analog Days.

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    OK, enough of the music talk… when are we eating?

    Actually, it reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine regarding R.E.M.’s Reveal album. He was laughing about how they were in this expensive-ass studio with all kinds of euqipment yet for some reason they were using samples of someone crinkling an M&Ms wrapper for a drum sound when down the hall they had an actual… drum kit.

    The conversation was actually really funny.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    oh shoot, i forgot. the pancake place can be seen here.

  • http://midnitcafe.blogspot.com Mat Brewster

    There’s a great little place in the far sticks of Indiana that has a great bit maple syrup festival every spring. It’s usually accompanied by a big chicken feast, lots of rural activies (sawing stumps with an old saw) and some fine bluegrass music.