Here’s a Cool Site To Discover (R.I.P. Hans Reichel)

You may not have heard of Hans Reichel, but he once created something you ought to know about:

Go ahead, click. Have some patience. Mouse around, find the spots to click — you’ll see.

It’s not a game per se, nor is it really a music site. It’s just a place to slowly explore and discover. I recommend checking out Page 1 or Page 5.

The relevance to this blog is that Reichel was a musician — creator of the daxophone, a musical instrument consisting of essentially a polished piece of wood. When rubbed with the right tool — a violin bow, say — it produces clear tones that sound like vocalized beeps. He built dozens, if not hundreds, of these things, taking advantage of different shapes and curves to produce different sounds. Most of the music you hear at is being produced by daxophones.

Sometime around 2000, the Bay Area creative-music folks got really excited about daxophones, and Reichel came around to play at Beanbender’s in Berkeley. It was a fun show, with Reichel playing solo, the audience still and quiet as the little daxophone noises leapt out into the room.

Reichel was also a guitar maker. Page 9 of takes you through a history of his creationsSeveral times, I had to keep myself from giggling. It wasn’t the music, it was the sound. See, the daxophone comes awfully close to the noises that Snoopy makes in the Peanuts TV specials. So I kept seeing images of little beagle-dogs chirping and singing, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always cartoony and, well, giggle-worthy. (Snoopy’s sounds are made by producer Bill Melendez, with the playback sped up, by the way.)

Let me put it another way: While this was serious music, it was also one of the cutest darned shows I’d ever heard. I hope Reichel would be amused by that.

Why bring all this up now? Because the news circulated today that Reichel has died at age 62. I’m saddened by his passing but happy that I got to hear his work in person, and also glad to rediscover the site.  Hopefully, it’ll stay up. It’s a nice legacy for Reichel to leave us.

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