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The Apprehension Engine: The most terrifying musical instrument of all time
05.19.2017
10:03 am
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I recently fell down a rabbit-hole of “unusual musical instrument” videos while doing some research on aquaphones for some indie-horror soundtrack work I’m doing. While aquaphones and theremins are the go-to instruments when thinking of “classic” horror sounds, I happened to run across the ultimate terror instrument—a home-made device that can produce a wide array of horrific soundscape elements all in one compact unit.  “The Apprehension Engine,” as it is called, was created by Canadian guitar maker Tony Duggan-Smith as a “one off” for Mark Korven, who is best known for his soundtrack work on The VVitch.

The unit has a hurdy-gurdy-like mechanism, along with a spring reverb, suspended metal parts which can be used percussively or played with a bow, and a string which can be played with an Ebow. The echoey sounds coaxed from this machine are other-worldly and much more terrifyingly organic than similar tonalities which may be produced digitally through synthesis.

According to one of the comments on the video from a week ago, Duggan-Smith is considering the idea of producing more of these infernal machines. If that’s the case, I’d like to be added to the waiting list!

Fans of Harry Partch and other outsider musical instruments, take note!

See this amazing instrument in action, after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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05.19.2017
10:03 am
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‘A New Note in Music’: 1952 newsreel on genius musical pioneer Harry Partch
08.20.2013
09:21 am
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The World of Harry Partch
 
There are few more interesting and innovative thinkers in the history of music than Harry Partch.

He serves as a kind of template for a restless, unorthodox, and distinctly American kind of genius: He invented a 43-tone musical system that many found (and still find) eccentric—but it worked. He was a hobo for a time, wrote popular songs under the pseudonym “Paul Pirate,” and set up a studio in a disused chick hatchery.

If nothing else, Harry Partch was a guy who got into the habit of thinking for himself. As The New Yorker‘s Alex Ross put it, “Of all the triumphantly weird characters who have roamed the frontiers of American art, none ever went quite as far out as the composer Harry Partch.”

Partch invented a boatload of instruments to suit his unique musical system, with whimsical and awe-inspiring names like the Quadrangularis Reversum, the Zymo-Xyl, and the Chromelodeon. Among the well-known musicians Partch influenced are Danny Elfman, Glenn Branca, and most particularly Tom Waits. Beck, himself the grandson of freethinker and Fluxus member Al Hansen, wrote a 10-minute song called “Harry Partch” in 2009—Beck claims that it is consistent with Partch’s 43-note scale. Partch virtually invented the category of microtonal music, an area in which a cousin of mine happens to be a leading expert.

Partch was intensely interested in King Oedipus, William Butler Yeats’ adaptation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. In 1934 Partch met with Yeats in England and told him of his ideas for adapting it, and Yeats was quite enthusiastic about it. It took Partch 18 years after that meeting to realize his conception for King Oedipus. Around 1951 Arch Lauterer, a professor of speech and drama at Mills College, a women’s school in Oakland, wanted to mount an adaptation of the work, and worked with Partch to make it happen. Lauterer proposed putting the instruments on the stage, an idea with which Partch agreed with alacrity.

The following video is a report on that production of King Oedipus, which was performed on March 14-16, 1952. You don’t have to be too expert a listener to hear a precursor to Rain Dogs-era Tom Waits in the tonalities.
 

 
Via Open Culture

Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.20.2013
09:21 am
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Harry Partch at Mills College (1952)
05.09.2011
01:09 pm
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A wonderful discovery from the archives of Mills College For Women, long a hotbed of revolutionary musical experimentation. This early 50’s newsreel of Harry Partch conducting the students on his battery of self-invented and built instruments (Partch famously described himself as a composer seduced into carpentry) is entirely too brief. Fortunately, due to the Youtubes, there’s been an explosion of materials on the great man for one and all to discover. I include as a bonus but a few of the lesser viewed examples of his greatness and encourage explorers to seek out recordings of Partch’s utterly unique music.
 

 
Harry Partch Music Studio a short film by Madeline Tourtelot circa late 50’s. (in two parts)

 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Brad Laner
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05.09.2011
01:09 pm
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