The "Meccanion" Instruments
Click on the thumbnail images to view the full sized photos.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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