The following article, written for the upcoming Girgarre Gazette to be published locally after Easter, is reproduced here as an update on my activities in Girgarre since mid February.
I am having a wonderful time preparing for the Gala Opening of the Soundshell. We are now in WEEK FIVE, with the performance taking place in WEEK EIGHT (Saturday 14 April). There are 35 players in the orchestra, and I have been running seven rehearsals a week, although we are cutting down to four to capture more people at once.
Instrument creation has moved at a pace, driven by Wallace Williams, Pete Gibson and myself. After much experimentation and fabrication we now have an ‘orchestra’ of drums, strings and percussion, mostly from up-cycled materials, which works brilliantly when joined by ‘proper’ instruments. There is a part to play for everyone who wants to be involved, although if you are considering joining but have not been along to a rehearsal yet I suggest you do so ASAP as we are well under way with quite a lot of learned pieces. But you have plenty of time to catch up so do come along and check it out.
The main sections of the piece, called Spirit Rising, are now written and most of them have been tried out in rehearsal. By WEEK SIX we will be running the show in rehearsals, and by WEEK SEVEN we will move as many rehearsals to the Soundshell as possible to get used to the stage. The score will be fully notated and documented however we won’t be using music on the night. We are memorising as we go with lots of drilling and repetition in rehearsals.
Our producer Patrick Cronin was in Girgarre last week and attended all rehearsals. He and I worked on shaping the show into a draft running order with a production schedule. He will be here for a day of rehearsals on 4 April and will then be in Girgarre from Wed 11 Apr until the performance. Patrick and I have worked on many projects together before, notably Raising the Roof for Arts Centre Melbourne in 2012 and a decade together on stage in the Spaghetti Western Orchestra. Patrick plays trumpet, uke, percussion, sings and is an excellent whistler. He’s also a terrific events organiser and it is great to have him on board.
The show, featuring all local talent, has a wide variety of elements with a few surprises. The gates open at 6.00pm for a 7.30 show. There are food vans and pre-show entertainment, and afterwards the stage gives over to a traditional ‘Jigarre Jam’ where everyone can join in and learn a couple of songs.
So if you hear the call of the drums, follow your ears to the rehearsal room. Everyone is welcome to sit and listen to any rehearsal, and you may feel moved to take up some beaters and a plectrum and join the thriving Junkestra.
It's so good to be back in Girgarre.
We are off to a flying start, with rehearsals already underway for the JUNKESTRA - see info about it here. The Music Supermarket is also re-activated. All of the tools and materials collected last year are back and ready to go. It will be open Wed to Sun for the next ten weeks, with times advertised on the door and here at the website.
Last year Pam and Ken Rogers offered some instruments but I was unable to collect them - so it was the first thing I did on arrival. Thank you Pam and Ken for the donation. We have collected enough to get on with but donations of interesting objects that might make a good JUNKSTREMENT are still welcome.
The STRING CANS project is about to re-commence out of the Music Supermarket workshop and I will be joined by local makers Wallace Williams and Pete Gibson. Already Wallace and I are working on adding frets to a cello and reducing it to one string. Residents are encouraged to call in at any time and possibly make an instrument for themselves. The JUNKESTRA will be populated with home-mades and DIYs of all kinds. I am looking forward to catching up with the most recent crop of JUNKSTREMENT that were created for the Moosic Muster last month.
I have been warmly welcomed by the community and am really looking forward to seeing how the JUNKESTRA evolves over the coming weeks. Save the 14 April if you can and come and hear what promises to be a unique band!
After this I ran into some problems and have decided to iron them out before I publish any more. The sticks I used were soft wood. They need to be hard as they warped too easily. SO - I am going to wait until I am in the workshop in Girgarre and continue this online blog once we get a few instruments for the orchestra made there, so stay tuned.
POLARIS - Holly and Ted's new show premiered with success
I have designed sound and built instruments for Holly and Ted's new show POLARIS that previewed last week with shows at Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot and Playbox Theatre, Warwick, to great success. It is a beautifully told story about violence in language featuring dinosaurs, schoolgirls and space captains. Two shows at Theatre Royal, Stratford East Feb 6 and 14. More info about the sound design on this page
THE STRING CANS PROJECT is about splitting a guitar into six single-string tin-can instruments for use in community orchestras. They will change the music world, one string at a time.
STRING CANS 01 covered selecting suitable cans
STRING CANS 02 covered the cutting of a wooden front disc
IN THIS POST I show, in a series of images, how I cut the holes in the can to accept the stick.
The stick (or neck) I chose is a broomstick cut lengthways into a half-round. You could use a square or rectangular stick if you don't have a way of cutting a round stick in half. You could also plane one side of a round stick by hand. I think the half-round shape will be comfortable to play.
In the following pics I show the second can-hole being made. The first I had already done in this same way.
I have left the stick way too long to experiment with different string lengths. A guitar measures 650mm nut to bridge while a uke is just 330mm. I'll try different lengths, resonator discs and string gauges before gluing together. I think that this instrument is for string one, tuned to E4, 329.63 Hz. Also note that the stick will need to be recessed inside the can to allow room for the front disc to vibrate freely.
NEXT WEEK - strings, tuner and frets
The easiest is to use bought machine heads, but in case you want to make your own here are some good ideas. I found these all over the place but did not keep track of their source pages so this is a collage of images.
I really want to hear from you! but...
I'm having trouble with the comments box. When you click to comment the box appears black and so does the text so it's invisible. I'm working to sort this out. In the meantime perhaps write your comment in a temporary note or doc and paste it into the reply box. Once posted they seem to appear OK.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Outline of plans to develop one-string fretted instruments and publish as I go during January 2018
I have been building 'String Cans' since the mid nineties. My early designs featured a stretchy string across a high bridge and pitch was found using tension, not length. They are quite difficult to play in tune. The Graeme Leak String Quartet featured a range of sizes from bass to soprano. I made a particularly nice one for Patrick Cronin's 40th and immediately borrowed it back. He's never seen it since, except when we toured with the Spaghetti Western Orchestra. It even appeared on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. To see the video look here at the 11min mark.
Watch this space for progress reports as I develop the first prototype during January. I'm not sure exactly how this will work but I am excited about making something and publishing as I go. And you are most welcome to copy and create your own instrument at the same time.
Today the joined timber blank was cut into two giant bridges. They now need to be shaped, sanded and fitted. Ian Cassidy ("Hoppy") is waiting patiently in the wings with the marine varnish. Will be ready for the concert on Wednesday!
Sound Fence Update and some pages from the May Girgarre Gazette (below) with details of the concert on 17 May at 6pm.
It's been an action packed couple of weeks. I've not updated because I'm too busy keeping up with the Dickmans! On 19 April I showed the designs and a model of the Girgarre Sound Fence to a group of townsfolk, and the Dickmans (Rod, Peter, Andrew and James) offered to do the main post-and-wires-and-paths work. 'When do you think we can do it?' I asked. Pause. 'Next Wednesday?' said Rod. And so it was that on Wednesday 26 April some old posts were removed, the old fence tied off, new posts were put in place and the special tuning system was wired up with 8 turnbuckles. More work has happened since, to be detailed in the next posts.
PREPARING THE GARGARRO GALA
An article written for the local Girgarre Gazette (to be published after Easter and previewed here) describes the process of creating an orchestra of locals with DIY instruments, then writing a major work for them.
BACK IN GIRGARRE
Music Supermarket and
this Girgarre Blog now reactivated.
THE STRING CANS PROJECT is about splitting a guitar into six single-string tin-can instruments for use in community orchestras.
This blog documents it as it evolves. The blueprints will be published and available for free to anyone who would like to build one.
Change the music world,
one string at a time.
INTRO 20 Dec 2017
INSPIRATION 24 Dec 2017
01 Tin Selection 01 Jan
02 Front Disc 02 Jan