Instrument profiles

bluebird_meditationFor those interested in knowing more about the individual Poemophones I have created a separate page for each.  Black Royal, BlueBird, Cosmos, Model 5, Noiseless, Optima, and Quiet de Lux are each featured in images and audio recordings with descriptions of the keyboard layout, tuning voice, characteristics of playing the instrument, and details on the construction of each.

A series of audio recordings playing each instrument using a set pattern of keyboard strokes allows the listener to compare the voice of each instrument with others.  The patterns include the following:

  • playing the alphabet
  • playing the word ‘poemophone’
  • playing rows of the keyboard from left to right, first playing the bottom, then playing the middle, and lastly playing the top row
  • playing a random cascade of tones first on the left side of the keyboard, then on the right side of the keyboard
  • in some instances there is also a sample of playing a random cascade in the middle of the keyboard

Some of the poemophones are louder than others as the pliability and thickness of the keys, type of woods used in construction, and resonant quality of the typewriter bodies vary for each instrument.

Most of the instruments use the QWERTY keyboard layout, but a few are scrambled, in which case the ease of typing specific words is thwarted.  Composing using language on these scrambled keyboards requires a patience in relearning the location of letters and/or challenges the dominance of language composition over tonal relationships.  These non-QWERTY poemophones are the best for making cacophonous compositions.

Tuning for each poemophone is the result of the physical alignment of the crossbar and bridge relative to the soundboard.  In most cases there are two sets of crossbar and bridge per poemophone.  This allows for greater variation in configurations among the group of instruments and thus greater variation in tuning voice for each.  The soundboards also vary in scale, proportion, and wood type, all characteristics that lend to the personality and volume of the instruments.

The keys are hand-forged from steel (other than hunting the typewriters, this is my favorite part of making each instrument).  The key shape is based on the standard key shape of the mbira.  The thickness, width, and length of each key all contribute to character of sound the key will produce.

More details can be found on the pages for each individual poemophone.

1 Comment

  1. Tracey:

    It’s awesome that things are moving along with this. I am sponsoring some undergrad research on creating mimetic profanity to use as stress relief. It might make a good score.

    BTW, Did you get the matching hat for Optima?


Leave a Reply