The "Meccanion" Instruments

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The Drum Machine

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1991 (revised 1994, 2002)

size: 32 cm x 38 cm x 16 cm

The cylindrical surface of the drum is covered with segments of phonograph records. As the drum rotates, sounds are extracted from the record fragments through two primitive pickups. The drum is rotated by a DC motor with a speed control, which is built into the base of the instrument. The pickups connect to phone jacks at the rear of the instrument, as well as to an audio amplifier and speakers, which are also built into the base.

Noise Factory

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1991 (revised 2002)

size: 55 cm x 57 cm x 33 cm

There are ten different noise-makers in this instrument, all with their own clutch. Much cacophany can enuse, and (as described by combinatorial theory) it would take about a year to listen to all of the combinations.



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1993 (revised 2002)

size: 135 cm x 14 cm x 10 cm

The little car travels to and fro along the track, rubbing the string as it goes and making the string vibrate. As the point of contact with the string is also a nodal point for the string's vibration, the pitch and timbre of the sound changes with the car's position. The car is powered by "live" rails, similar in concept to those used for model trains.


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1991 (revised 2002)

size: 36 cm x 17 cm x 24 cm

The mechanism automatically cycles through the various speed combinations presented by a dual 7-speed gearbox. The two output shafts drive a pair of noisemakers. In the photo, these are party noisemakers; whereas in the current (revised) instrument, these are round "tins" containing ball-bearings. As the gearboxes cycle through the gear changes, the timbre of the noises made changes.

Boom Crash Opera


2000 (under reconstruction)

size: 64 cm x 35 cm x 31 cm

The complex apparatus on the left is a four-speed gearbox, which drives the big drum, causing it to rotate. The drum is filled with metal scraps, and two contact pickups are attached to the drum's outside surface. A remarkable range of cacophany results. The initial version of this instrument, as shown in the photo, was hurriedly constructed in 48 hours for a live performance. Since then, a more permanent version of the drum has been constructed, which does not benefit from the adhesive properties of duct tape.

Musical Box

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size: 36 cm x 16 cm x 23 cm

Four music box movements can be played, singly or in combination. When played singly, each movement plays a short, recognizable tune. As an ensemble, they produce an unmelodic sound of irregular rhythm, which nonetheless is "in tune".

The Rotary Club


1992 (reconstructed 2002)

size: 80 cm diameter x 35 cm

Apologies for the ancient photo scan. Good quality photos will appear soon.
A motley collection of small scraps of sheet aluminum are suspended from a circular frame approximately 60 cm in diameter. An arm rotates at a few revolutions per minute in a horizontal plane beneath the scraps. A small "club" at the end of the arm spins around 21 times faster than the arm itself. It is this small club which strikes against the aluminum pieces. I wanted to have a faster-spinning striker to provide a louder, clearer tone. Interestingly enough, while the utility grade aluminum I used is pretty miserable stuff to machine, it has excellent acoustical properties.

Turntable No.2

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size: 43 cm x 31 cm x 24 cm

Platter and tone arm from junked record player are wedded with maniac Meccano-set mechanistry. The result is a device which spins discs at any speed between 0 and 180 rpm, in either direction.

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