Outsound 2011, #4: Thingamajigs

The Outsound New Music Summit takes place July 17-23, 2011, at the Community Music Center, 544 Capp St., San Francisco.

Let me say this first: I wanna see the percussion ball in action.

I mean, come on! It’s a soccer-ball-shaped wooden object with vacuum-cleaner hoses connecting opposite faces. If you don’t already know, unconnected vacuum hoses make the coolest sound, a plastic, reverberating thonk if you slap the palm of your hand across the opening just right.

The other cool thing about the percussion ball? It’s made to tumble, bringing back fond d20 memories from geekier days. (How geeky? Enough that I love (and understand) this T-shirt.)

The percussion ball is just one of the wonderfully strange musical instruments being showcased in Sonic Foundry Too!” target=”blank” (Sat., July 23), the last of the four concerts in this year’s Outsound New Music Summit. The whole show is about invented instruments. It’s like a prelude to the Music for People and Thingamajigs Festival that’s coming in September.

Who can you see? Terry Berlier, creator of the percussion ball, won’t be there, but David Michalak will be on hand to play the instrument, part of his duo with instrument inventor Bart Hopkin.

There’s also skatchbox inventor Tom Nunn, who plays with Michalak in T.D. Skatchit. I described skatchbox here and here; it’s a percussive instrument built on the surface of a closed, thick cardboard box, and it makes quite a racket. Skatchboxes have been a fixture of the Outsound Summit for some time, and a workshop about building them was a featured event last year.

Nunn’s set isn’t just skatchbox redux, though. He, Michalak and Steven Baker will be playing lukie tubes, resonace plates, bridgerod mothic, berimbau, bells, and springs, according to the program. No, I don’t know what all of them are — they key point is that they’re made-up instruments and will hopefully produce sound combinations that you’ve never experienced.

Bob Marsh will perform in something called Sonic Suit #1 (which looks like it’s acoustic; see photo at left), in a duo with Brenda Hutchinson playing the Long Tube. And there are a couple of other musical pairings on the schedule — 10 instrument builders/players in all. It’s going to be a visual feast as well as a musical one, so you’ll want to bring a camera.

Like every concert in the series, “Sonic Foundry Too” will include a pre-show Q&A with the musicians at 7:15 p.m. — great opportunity to ask things like “why” and “what the-” and “you get sounds out of that?” — followed by the show at 8:15 p.m.

Previous Outsound 2011 posts:

UPDATE:  I’m told that the percussion ball is big — about twice the diameter I was thinking! It sounds like a grown man can lift the thing but can’t reach his arms all the way around it. Cool.

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