Radical Forms in Daxophone Construction

Radical Forms in Daxophone Construction

The beauty of the daxophone is that it is untrodden territory: aesthetically, functionally, and conceptually. Hans Reichel invented this instrument almost 30 years ago, but the structure of the instrument remains simple—it is a vibrating tongue. you can a) change the tongue b) change the means of vibrating the tongue or c) change how you amplify the tongue. Reichel passed in 2011, but his free plans for daxophone construction only showed up on in 2006—after almost 20 years of patient tinkering. Reichel was, of course, exhaustively thorough, and a craftsman of the highest order; he created an entire lexicon that defines what the daxophone should look and sound like. But Hans never meant to proselytize, or to hock his designs for profit. The guide itself even suggests that this is just one way to explore the basic concept of the instrument; a material, fixed on one end, and set into motion. A tongue!

warped tongues from Wuppertal

warped tongues from Wuppertal

wuppertal, 2006

wuppertal, 2006

I strongly believe that rather than promote the official idea of “what a daxophone is”, Hans hoped that curious thinkers would develop unique solutions, and create daxophones that would look and sound totally different than anything he could have planned. Ingenuity, not Industry is the lifeblood of the daxophone. Reichel’s first design used an ordinary C clamp to secure pieces of wood to a table (and later a piezo box); subsequent designs featured an integrated clamp designed from a hex-bolt and a wooden handle, which actually go through the box itself. This was a historic officiation in daxophone construction: all tongues had to be fitted with a notch in order to fit into the clamp on the sounding box. Whereas with a C-clamp, a paint stirrer or spatula COULD be a daxophone when clamped down onto a surface, and when the clamp is removed, it returns to its original identity. With the cutting of this notch, however, the object BECOMES an INSTRUMENT. Even after, this tiny gesture of carpentry forever signifies the object as a daxophone tongue, and it retains this meaning inside and outside of the musical happening. All you have to do is cut this notch into anything, and it is a daxophone, and you can play it.

The following instruments are two radical perspectives on the idea of the daxophone. On the right is a tongue made with Reichel’s font Daxoph in neon acrylic, cut on the lasercutter. Perhaps this is too-perfect to be a practical daxophone—the lasercutter leaves perfect glossy edges on a piece of acrylic, which are then too slippery to catch the bow. I made this tongue at with . On the left is a piece of driftwood I found at FT. Tilden in 2013. Worms and barnacles have tunneled through the wood leaving holes like swiss cheese, and the whole wood itself smoothed from an indeterminate stay on the sandy beaches of NY. I just cut the notch.

driftwood and plexi

driftwood and plexi