Bringing the noise at Brown

Sounding Off
By DANIEL MCGOWAN  |  May 12, 2011


Remember when you were just a little tyke and you considered banging Lincoln Logs on the heads of Gobots music to your ears?

Well at Brown, there's a class for that.

And on Tuesday, May 17 at 8 pm, 16 undergraduate and graduate students from Brown and RISD will put on a free concert to show off a semester's worth of work in Studio 1 at the new Granoff Center for the Creative Arts on Angell Street ( or 401.863.3234).

The course, "Experimental Musical Instrument Design," challenged students to question traditional forms of music, according to Paul Myoda, one of three professors who taught the class. The goal was to study different examples of experimental instruments (idiophones, chordophones) and actually create a collection of new instruments.

In other words, students were asked to construct noisemakers that their children will one day use to piss them off.

Myoda said the class developed a wide range of instruments, some which derive from traditional forms but were "transformed by unusual material choices," like the glass ukulele or the single reed aerophone made from aluminum.

Others, Myoda noted, are "quite unexpected in both form and acoustic properties, such as a multi-person performance-instrument, where eight hooded 'musicians' struck single-pitched notes on shirt-mounted plastic marimba-like boxes via the wireless earpiece directions of the instrument designer, Benjamin Nicholson."

It seems more like a hazing ritual than a musical performance, but Myoda insists some of the instruments are quite pleasant-sounding. He said he enjoys watching students think outside the box and think up new ideas.

"I believe wonderful things can come about when people question received forms and traditions," he said. "Potentially terrible, discordant things as well, but that doesn't make them any less fascinating."

Myoda said the class was created specifically for the Granoff Center, which looks like it was built by someone who took Experimental Architecture at Brown. The building features everything from production studios to art galleries, multimedia labs, a recording studio, and an outdoor amphitheater.

Just because the semester is over, don't expect the new instruments to go to waste. They'll remain on display in the building throughout the summer for all to enjoy. But if you want to see them in action, you have to attend the concert on Tuesday.

And if your band is in desperate need of an aluminum ukulele player, you know just where to find one.

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  Topics: This Just In , Music, Brown University, Brown University,  More more >
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