The “daxophone” is a new acoustic instrument invented in the 80s. Its creator was a German typographer. It’s name is derived from “badger.” It sounds like an half-human, half-alien vocal. And virtuoso Kazuhisa Uchihashi has been able to coax a whole album out of it – with jaw-dropping results.
This particular album came out last fall, but must have flown under the radar. Hats off yet again to C-drik Fermonth and Syrphe for being on it. Technically speaking, the daxophone is a “friction idiophone” – like the glass armonica and musical saw. The actual results transcend the parts, and what you get is a sound between the delicacy of those better-known instruments and the quality of a voice.
Created by Hans Reichel, the instrument is diverse in its playing methods. (Okay, Reichel is a typographer, yes, but also a musician and violinist and guitarist as well as luthier – and has his own approach to playing his invention.) There’s a wooden tongue, another wooden block, and some contact mics. Somehow the shape of the instrument and its cavities and materials and the use of the tongue make a kind of vocal puppet, producing that singing / speaking quality.
Even Reichel describes the possibilities as being open-ended and uncertain. Enter Japanese-born, Berlin-based musician Kazuhisa Uchihashi, who has mastered those idiosyncracies to the point that the daxophone itself can effectively be the singer.
This entire album is all daxophone.
Listen to “I FEEL GOOD” for a particularly wonderful uncanny valley:
The rendition of “Close to You” is pure magic:
And it goes on from there. I feel like I’m going to wind up hearing this version of “Eleanor Rigby” licensed somewhere depending on who reads CDM. “Space Oddity” is what we should have sent on an interstellar probe instead of Glenn Gould, even.
Even the artist here says, simply, “funny and beautiful !!!”
Here’s a closer look at the instrument. A playing demonstration, which makes it seem more musical saw-like (John Jansen has their own shop):
You can also DIY this instrument. Thanks to everyone who got in touch with resources. The old official site was built in Flash and so doesn’t work now, but there are other updated resources.
From builder Daniel Fishkin, who has worked on iterating the design of the instrument with new soundboard types and other inventions, you can read a detailed narrative of a meeting with the creator. Daniel also wrote the woodworking article below. You can check more pages on the instrument (including the world’s only consort?) plus a shop:
Our friend Yuri Landman is evidently building the instruments and offering workshops here in Europe.
The biggest feature on this instrument, down to details and videos of how to mill those daxophone tongues, comes from none other than Popular Woodworking – of course!
Create Wooden Music!
Watch Uchihashi at work:
And grab that album:
Update – Niall Brady helps us out with that defunct site.
– The original website at daxo.de uses Flash, thus non-functional in
standard browsers these days
– If you wish to browse it and experience it in its original form,
please see https://ruffle.rs/ and the browser plugin there. Please try
this – it’s illuminating to see it as Hans Reichel intended it.
Also, here’s a list of the downloadable content from the website (PDFs
etc.) – DaxInfo.pdf.zip being the main bit, but the rest make sense in
the context of the whole site 🙂
So yeah if you can reach whomever has that site or any other site now rendered defunct because of use of Flash, ruffle.rs is a solution!