Library Scrapophony

Here’s a video snippet from a event in Pioneer Park sponsored by the Mountain View Public Library in Mountain View, CA.

This was originally supposed to be an ‘Adult Activity’ in the Community Room, but since it was such a nice day, we moved it outdoors and folks of all ages seemed to have fun. I just spread out an assortment of ‘instruments’ for folks to enjoy.

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Mixed Media Too

Stanford-Dance-2-26-14 Here’s another image of a somewhat different setup for modern dance accompaniment at Stanford University from the one used in the first ‘Mixed Media’ post. Actually, most of the instruments here are not from found sounds, with the exception of the little ‘miniature xylophones’, one hanging from the stand and the other on the to the right.

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Ephemeral Scrapophony

Here are some photos demonstrating the process of assembling a temporary scrapophone. rack-empty-9-22-12The first photo is the empty rack described in a previous post about scrapophone racks. You can click on the image to enlarge it, but as you will see, this scrapophone will have a completely different selection of items hung from it.

The next image gives us a bit of a reality check regarding all the stuff you end up having to carry around to set up a temporary scrapophone. And most of  this isn’t even the stufrack-stuff-9-22-12f that ended up being hung on the rack that day.

Finally, we see an image of the scrapophone rack with all the stuff hung on it…all the bells and whistles? Okay, no whistles on this one.

rack-full-9-22-12Going from left to right, we have an old bicycle gear with a random piece of pipe next to it. The two black and bronze bells are just that. They are a couple of school bells I salvaged from an old school that was being torn down near my home. Next to that, is a repurposed metal lamp shade that has a wonderful pure tone.

The are also a couple of small metal vessels attached to the top crossbar of the rack. In the background is an old air pressure tank that also has a delightful tone.

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Mixed Media

Scrapophony can also mix nicely with more ‘conventional’ sounds as demonstrated in this photo of a setup I used to accompany a modern dance class at Stanford University. Click on the image for a larger view.

Stanford-Dance-2-12-13 Although most of the stuff hung on the rack is scrapophony, I mix these sounds with various drums (bottom right), and flutes.

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Paper Towel Rolls

Watch this video to see what you can do with a couple of empty paper towel rolls and a couple of rubber bands.

Paper Towel Percussion

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Scrapophone Racks

ComGroundCropped-1A scrapophone isn’t necessarily a static instrument like the tuna can shaker, or the washaker. Very often it will consist of a varying collection of items hung from some sort of ‘percussion rack’, that may or may not be made from repurposed materials.

The image to the left actually has two scrapophone racks. You can click the image to enlarge it to see a little better. I’m not quite sure where I obtained the blue one in the back, but I believe it is an old surveyor’s tripod. The legs are wood which I painted blue. It currently has a circular saw blade, a bicycle sprocket and sundry pipes hung from it.

The rack in the front is made of two legs from an old grand piano, with a short table leg turned upside down and attached to each piano leg. The cross bar is a piece of split two by four that was hanging out in my back yard. It currently has an old rake head and an old pick axe head hanging from it as well as a couple of ‘scrapobells’ mounted on top.

The split two by four is a good example of the importance of scrapophone safety. Just before I was about to pack it up for an event I was doing, when I happened to run my hand across it and picked up a small splinter…a reminder to sand it a bit.

As I look carefully at this image, I notice I’ve also used a microphone stand to hang a couple of pieces from.

More on scrapohone racks later.


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Stone River

Stone River Soundscape

Stone River Soundscape

The image to the left is a snapshot of instruments used to accompany the dance performance Along the_River choreographed and directed by Karin Cabello-Moriarty, and performed at the Andy Goldsworthy sculpture ‘Stone River’ in front of the Cantor Museum at Stanford University in 2003. The music/scoundscape was composed by Herb Moore (hey that’s me!) and associates.

This provides a good example of mixing scrapophony with ‘conventional’ instruments. Pictured here are an Indonesian drum (the red drum on the left), a dununba drum (one of three West African drums collectively referred to as dununs), and a bunch of scrapophony…bicycle parts, circular saw blades, etc.


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washer shaker


A bit of 1/4 inch irrigation tube, a couple of small cable ties, a few washers and some string combine to make a washaker.  The washers need to stay somewhat clustered together so they can jingle against each other. The cable ties work as ‘stops’ to keep the washers from spinning around too far to the sides. A length of colorful string is used to bring the ends of the tubing together and form a nice handle.

When playing the ‘washaker’, the washers jingle better if you hold it pointing downward. If you hold it pointing upward, like maracas, the washers tend to spread away from each other. Even the simplest of instruments require some technique!

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Tuna Can Shaker

Some version of  this could be done with pretty much any tin can, but a 3 inch ‘ABS test cap’ fit quite nicely for the tuna can I used. Okay, so what’s an ABS test cap? It’s a cap used in plumbing to temporarily seal an ABS drain pipe. You can get them at most any hardware store that sells plumbing supplies.

You could paint the can if you wished. This can is decorated using some ‘designer’ duct tape. You can get this kind of tape with various designs at office supply stores, hardware stores, etc. Just put a couple of strips across the bottom of the can and trim the edges with scissors, then the 2 inch tape works nicely when wrapped around the can and folded slightly over the lip at the opening.

Add a few tiny pebbles or beads to the can. Put the ABS cap on but don’t glue it yet. Hold the cap tightly on and shake to hear what it sounds like. Add or remove pebble or beads and repeat until you get a sound you like.

Drill a 1/2 whole in the center of the ABS cap. To decorate the ABS cap you can either paint it, or brush on a thin layer of clear polycrylic (a water based polyurethane) and sprinkle on some glitter.

Next glue the ABS cap onto the top of the tuna can and let it dry. I used super glue, but any similar strong adhesive should work.

Finally, cut a short piece of 1/2″ dowel for the handle. You can paint or stain it if you wish. Put a dab of glue on one end of the dowel, make sure stones or beads are to one side, and push it thru the whole in the center of the ABS cap until it firms up against the bottom of the can. Adjust the dowel so it isn’t leaning off to one side. Run a bead of glue around the edge of where the dowel meets the center of the ABS cap.

Let the glue dry and your done.

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Key Wind Chimes

The key (sic) to getting a good sound from key wind chimes is proper spacing of the keys so they bounce into each other enough to create a pleasing sound but not so much that the sound is deadened.

You can accomplish this by laying the keys out on a table with the widest part of each key slightly overlaping the adjacent key. Then place the stick or dowel you’ll be hanging the keys from along the top of the keys and mark where each key should hang.

There are various ways to hang the keys. Here, I have used thin monofilament chord and cut slight grooves in the piece of driftwood to keep the line from sliding out of place.

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