Playing the Breath Flute
These two instruments are explorations of the same idea. Both involve very short strings under high tension which attach directly to a “soundboard” made of a rigid stainless steel sheet. The sheet hangs from the strings, in contact with nothing else. This arrangement produces a bright, crystalline tone with a long tail of reverberation from the sheet. The instrument called Icicles (on the right in the larger photo) is just what I’ve described: a configuration of 26 short string segments and the stainless sheet. The one called Pop Ice (on the left) has an added element in the form of a thin Styrofoam sheet, also in direct contact with the strings, acting as a second soundboard. The styro sheet produces a sharp pop of tone at the moment of plucking, followed by the sustaining resonance of the stainless sheet. Both instruments are difficult to tune, so they tend to end up in semi-random scales which, as often as not, turn out to be more intriguing than a standard scale would have been.

In the audio clip, the first section is Icicles; the second is Pop Ice.

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