Ed Devane: DIY Drone Orchestra (Practical Workshop)

Ed Devane is a Dublin-based artist primarily working with sound and music, but with parallel interests in visual art and design. Using electronic audio feedback, home-made instruments and modular software to achieve his sound, experimentation lies at the heart of Devane’s work.

For this session, which is followed by a “drone jam”, the purpose is to make some instruments that the workshop members could make sustained pitches with, using inexpensive and easily sourced materials.

Participants will be making 3 instruments using PVC and metal tubes, balloons, wood dowel, funnels and DC motors with impellers. One will basically be a double reed instrument which you blow into, and which produces a very satisfying bass tone with a long enough pipe, and when overblown makes a sound akin to a distorted square wave…raspy and raucous! The second will be an electrically wind-powered whistle, which will produce a constant tone at a pitch determined by the length of the pipe. The third will simply be lengths of metal pipe cut to tune, suspended from the node with string and a piece of dowel, and hit with a bit of dowel. These are all pretty easy to make, and cheap. I am going to limit the pitches to a 5 note scale for all instruments, over a range of 3 or 4 octaves depending on how many people are there. Each instrument will make one tone.

The second step of the workshop will be performance based. Using their newly made instruments, Ed will arrange the participants into groups of four. The point of limiting the instruments to one tone ties in my Ed’s philosophy of musical equality and co-operation. Alone, these instruments will soon sound uninteresting. As an ensemble, complex patterns are easily made using the system developed. Arranged into cells of four people/pitches, and playing notes in sequence around a circle, a melody is made. Combine this with other groups and the full range of musical possibilities is possible, but in such a way as is simple for non-musicians to comprehend.

This method ties in with team-building exercises, music therapy and education. Participants learn about rhythm and melody within their cell, harmony, dissonance and structure in combination with other cells. It’s also a very satisfying experience when it all comes together. To become acquainted with the aesthetics of drone music, participants will learn about and put into practice amplitude envelopes, modulation, spacialisation and texture – attributes normally associated with sythesised music, but relevant to sound in general.

Learn more about Ed Devane’s activities on his website.