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DIY musical instruments perform at Serendip festival

DIY musical instruments perform at Serendip festival
 
HarcoRutgers/Flickr

Home-made musical instruments, built from recycled tape-recorders, meccano construction sets and toys can be seen - and heard - at the Serendip festival in Paris. The electronica music scene has brought a new audience to some musicians

who say that jazz and rock fans didn't want to hear their work.

“Mr Philips would not be happy,” says French composer Pierre Bastien as he shows off one of his instruments, an old Philips record player that has been reworked into an automatic string instrument.

Bastien created his first automatic orchestra in the 1980s with instruments built from meccano construction sets, driven by small motors. He often says machines are easier to direct than human musicians who tire quickly of playing the same tunes. 

Clea Caulcutt

On 13 October, he performed at the Serendip music and art festival in Paris to an eager crowd of experimental music fans. Bastien plays the trumpet, sometimes dipping his instrument into a glass of water to create an odd bubbly sound, as his little musical creations play along.

Today’s listeners and musicians understand his music much better since the emergence of an electronica music scene, he says.

“The experimental jazz scene totally rejected me,” he says. “People in jazz and in rock like musicians who sweat, who push their instruments, and who don’t play with machines.

“Fortunately for me this computer music, with all these electronic machines, came along and so now I’d readily say I belong to this movement.”

The Serendip festival gathers many musicians who create their own instruments or make music with unusual objects.

Alongside Computer Truck, French artist Alexis Malbert, aka Tapetronic, hosted a workshop with students at the University of Saint-Denis on performing music with everyday objects.

Tapetronic records sounds on audio tapes and creates melodies with tinkered-with tape players, adding special effects with tampered tapers and accessories. He has never been tempted to adopt more sophisticated digital equipment such laptops, MP3 players, or CD players, he says.

 “It’s more interesting for me to explore tapes and the mechanical and magnetic process because it’s more physical, more spontaneaous,” says Tapetronic

After the musician demonstrates his wares, students try their hand circuit-bending, the little-known art of short-circuiting toys or small electronic devices to create music.  

Armed with screwdrivers, the students fiddle with the insides of electronic toys, seeking quirky sounds and fun short-circuits.

Antoine Sauer, a 23-year-old culture management student, patiently tinkers with a toy cell phone and explains why he joined such an unusual workshop.

“I like music and like everybody here, I am a child at heart,” he says, laughing, “no really, it’s true.”


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