MUSICIAN AND INSTRUMENT DESIGNER
Hello and thanks for visiting my web site. Over the years I’ve been active in many facets of music-making including instrument making, performance and recording, composition and arrangement, music education, theater music, and ethnomusicological research. This web site is devoted primarily to musical instruments, their design and construction, with an emphasis on unusual and inventive acoustic instruments.
Here’s a short history of my life in music.
I started out as a kid. Then I grew up and went to college; got a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University in folklore and mythology specializing in ethnomusicology in 1974. Later I picked up a second B.A. in music education and a teaching credential at San Francisco State University.
In the latter 1970s and early ’80s I worked as a high school music teacher in public and private schools, doing both choral and instrumental music. Several of those years were at a public secondary school and the national music school in Kingston, Jamaica. There, in addition to teaching, I researched and wrote on Jamaican revival church music and (in some of the most enjoyable field work you could imagine) Jamaican children’s songs.
From 1985 to 1999, I edited the quarterly journal Experimental Musical Instruments. The journal served as an essential resource and clearing house in an otherwise scattered but lively and growing field. After the final issue of the journal, Experimental Musical Instruments continued as an organization serving people interested in inventive instrument design, producing and selling informational resources as well as hardware for instrument makers. Since 1994, I’ve written a number of books on instruments and their construction, including the widely used manual Musical Instrument Design. I’ve also produced CDs featuring the work of innovative instrument makers worldwide, including the unexpectedly popular collection, Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones.
Since 1974, I’ve also worked as composer, arranger and performer in a variety of contexts. Along the way I’ve been playing guitar on a regular basis, both as a soloist and in small ensembles. Since 2009 I have served as a curator at the Window Gallery in San Francisco’s Center for New Music, presenting exhibits of new instruments and sound art from makers near and far. At the same time, I’ve been designing and building all the far-flung musical instruments I could dream up, and performing with them as well.
About this web site: This site was designed and constructed by Sarah Thomson of Blue Oak Web Design. The photo on the left side of the home page was taken by Stuart Brinnan. Appearing in the photos in the instrumentarium section are Antonette Lee, Chantal Gillies-Lee, Shane Hopkin, Michelle Roberts, Carly McLane, Sudhu Tewari, David Samas, Bruce Buckelew, Kate Buckelew, Sally Davis and Bart Hopkin.