I must admit to knowing neither the term tubes musicaux, nor “boomwhackers.”

We’re on the eve of the Musikmesse trade show, which for music technology sites means time spent largely in Hall 5.1 – the bit dedicated to electronic stuff and “DJs.” But that’s no reason to ignore the possibilities afforded by acoustic sound. So long as people are being inventive with materials, that end of the spectrum (so to speak) will remain compelling.

And the “Boomwhacker” is a great example. As Wikipedia kindly fills me in, “Boomwhackers Tuned Percussion Tubes are lightweight, hollow, color-coded, plastic tubes, tuned to musical pitches by length.” Okay, you mostly can see that in this video. But they’re a success story in new musical toys: the 1995 invention by Craig Ramsell has now sold millions of units.

As others try to again recreate Bach on Moog synths, here’s the non-trivial act of banging about plastic tubes as fast as you can to recreate Bach’s Prelude #1. The group in question is a French ensemble dedicated to music with objects. Their other performances look fascinating, as well. Nor are they alone. There’s New Jersey’s Beats for a Cause, a percussion ensemble that does this stuff for charity.

Now, is the Boomwhacker the most convenient, the most sonorous, the most, uh, subtle of all instruments? Not… entirely. But it’s a reminder of just how many ways there are to make sounds, then form those sounds into music. Our ears and bodies are amazing things.

And I imagine some of the best future instruments will actually blend acoustic and electronic elements, invention in physical design as well as circuits and code.

Here’s how this instrument works:

For more hitting-stuff-with-stuff musical action, here’s Liverpool’s Urban Strawberry Lunch, who have been at it since the 80s:

I can’t do an exhaustive people-who-hit-things-with-things list here, as I think I would need to start with Cro-Magnon man. But – well, as far as USL, uh … damn. They’re good. All-“recycled.”

Plus an interview with them:

(Thanks, Nick!)

  • Chris Stack

    Great stuff. Just what I needed to start the day.

  • Chris Stack

    Great stuff. Just what I needed to start the day.

  • Chris Stack

    Great stuff. Just what I needed to start the day.