Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ceramic Musical Instruments

A local ceramics studio in my area hosted a hands on workshop today about making ceramic musical instruments. Val and Dave Tyrrell presented the workshop. It was really amazing to hear music coming from the various instruments Val and Dave have made from clay. Some of the instruments demonstrated were ocarina, rattles, several types of flutes, drums, and udu.

Val showed us how to make a ceramic ocarina. My first try at making an ocarina failed, so I tried making a flute. With Val's help perfecting the tone, I was successful. The Tyrrell's said they had admired Barry Hall's new book From Mud to Music for quite a while and finally decided to purchase the book and were so glad they did. In addition to wonderful photography of ceramic musical instruments, the book comes with a CD of music created from various ceramic instruments.

Even though my "flute" above doesn't look like much now in it's greenware state, it makes quite a melodious tone and it isn't even leather hard yet. Val said it is best to let the piece harden first and then smooth out the rough edges. Since I had trouble making mine flute play, I wasn't going to tempt fate and clean it up until it becomes leather hard. The hole on the top at the right is the air inlet and is apparently the key to getting the wind instruments to play music. If it isn't constructed just right, no sound will come from the piece. Val showed us her special tools made from the tines of bamboo rakes. Val said the bamboo slats are key to shaping the mouthpieces and helping to form the air inlet just right to achieve the musical notes.

Dave demonstrated how to soak goat skin and then clamp it over the end of a glazed ceramic drum base to create the drum skin. Dave also showed us various ceramic rattles covered on both ends with goat skin and filled with tiny ceramic unglazed beads about a sixteenth of an inch in diameter. Dave played the udu for us. The udu is an African water jug with an extra hole and is played like a drum. The udu makes a wonderful base sound.

What a great time we had this afternoon. Once again I am amazed at all that is possible in working with clay. Tomorrow I am off to my last day of a ceramic bead workshop and hope to have some beads to share with you here very soon.


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