Thursday, May 31, 2007

An Ancient and Distinguished Instrument

I came across a Yahoo group yesterday that I thought might be of interest (Novelty Music), and this morning heard back from founder member Paul Moore. Paul has a one-man-band and plays the 'Zob Stick' which, upon further investigation, turns out the be one of many names for what we know as the Yobstick.

Whilst I have heard of others playing similar stick-based instruments every so often, I had never heard of the name. I suspect the name 'Yobstick' may just be due to a mispronunciation of 'Zob Stick', but the instrument has also been called the 'Monkey Stick', 'Lagerphone', 'Freedom Boot' and many other names from around the world. In fact it has a history going back to asian shamans, and possibly beyond, where it was used as a symbol of power. I've stuck some more details about this up on the Deserters site, along with links to some related sites.

For me the most interesting of these is The Groanbox Boys - a London band who I had already heard about in the last couple of days as they just happen to feature Michael Ward-Bergman. He plays some superb accordian (yes, perhaps it seems like a contradiction of terms, but it is really VERY good) on Judge Smith's album, "The Full English".

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The New Yobstick

At last, I finally got around to finishing the new yobstick. It's quite a departure from previous efforts - lots of natural wood and more emphasis on playability instead of durability. I've only played it for a short time tonight, but it feels great and sounds lovely (far better than a stick with a welly at one end and a load of bottle tops at the other should do!)

I'll stick some audio clips up once I've worked out how to mic the damn thing up. Imagine a drum kit that moves... I may need to get contact mics for it to work, but it is in effect three linked sound sources, so a single mic won't do it justice, and certainly wouldn't make it easy to be heard over electric instruments.

This picture of it makes it look somewhat scrawny, but looks aren't everything. I've set out the process I used to put it together over on the Deserters' page, under Instrumentography, so you can get a flavour for what is required to build one, and find out really interesting facts like "who makes the best bottletops for a yobstick?"

I've also been experimenting with some software called "SooperLooper", which turns a standard Linux PC into a long controllable delay loop. I've worked out how to get some control over it with my guitar effects pedal, to the extent of being able to play a series of chords, then bass, then solo over the top. Once I'm more familiar with it I'm hoping to be able to set up a rhythm with the yobstick and guitar, then play theremin over the top. Early days, but if I can get it working together and hit the timing spot on, then it could sound pretty good.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Slight Detour

I'm a great believer in trying something new at least once, especially if it is something that will provide some new insight or approach to life or what we do in it. In a recent search for interesting sounds to use I came across which is one of a number of websites dedicated to sharing samples - in this case everything from retro synths and orchestral instruments to foreign language dialog and farmyard sounds.

They have been running a competition for new electronic compositions, which is not something I've done for many years, preferring to work with at least some acoustic, hands-on (or off in the case of theremin) instruments. Listening to some of the tracks on the site only confirmed that this was pretty hard-core electronica - mostly not the sort of music I would listen to, let alone attempt (or wish) to play.

Sounds like a challenge.

So here you'll find the latest creation from The Lunacy Board. No lyrics. Lots of effects and electronic twiddles. Buckets of theremin. Not our usual fare, but what is usual for us?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hands Off!

I don't usually like to plug things around here, but this is an event that I'm really looking forward to - a whole weekend of theremin fun and goodness. There's a great line up of concerts and events planned with big names from the theremin world. Click on the picture for more details.

Hands Off 2007