Tom Nunn and Chris Brown are composer/performers from San Francisco who, for the past three years, have been developing together a new music made entirely with instruments they invent and build. They use inexpensive materials from their urban, industrial environment, realizing its rich musical potential by creating a personal instrumentation and musical style. (A few of these instruments are shown on the reverse side.) The wide variety of sounds available within each musician's repertoire of several instruments and the effects of electronic amplification, modification, and pre-recorded tape combine in compositions of fully orchestral range.
Working with the process of free improvisation (i.e. real-time composition), they have refined their material through an entirely aural musical practice into a futuristic folk music. Their instrumentation is continually evolving; the music is a process of discovering new sounds and relationships. A performance is a journey through an exotic soundscape of living sonorities form the natural to man-made, imaginary worlds.
Chris Brown received his B.A. in Music from the University of California, Santa Cruz where he studied composition and performance with William Brooks and Gordon Mumma. He has performed classical and avant-garde music for piano throughout California. During the last five years he has also been studying various non-western musics and jazz. He works as a professional piano tuner and re-builder in San Francisco.
Tom Nunn has a B.Mus. and M.A. in music composition from the University of Texas and SUNY, Stony Brook respectively. In 1975 he began to work directly with sound in an improvisatory setting. Since then he has created a rich assortment of musical instruments. This activity is a part of his personal research into the theoretical and practical implications of real-time composition with original instrumentation. * * * Chris Brown and Tom Nunn are available for performances in a variety of settings including concert halls, museums and galleries, clubs, private parties, and schools. Fees are adjustable, based on the type of performance and travel time. For information please contact Chris Brown at 1951 Oak St., San Francisco, CA 94117; or phone (415) 387-4087.
A sixty-minute cassette of their recent music is now available through Essential Recordings in San Francisco. Entitled "earwig", it features most of the instruments in a variety of contexts, Send $7.98 to Essential Recordings, Studio 108, 1850 Union, San Francisco, CA 94123. Tapes are also available for review from Chris Brown at the above address.
EAR Vol. 5, No. 6 June/July 1980 New York
I design and build electro-acoustic instruments which I perform through electronic circuitry also designed and constructed by me. I began building instruments to play with Tom Nunn and David Poyeaurew in an improvisational music ensemble called Confluence. I have also played them with other musicians playing conventional instruments.
Though my own part is structured by the instrument, tuning (if any), and electronic configuration chosen for each improvisation, most of my music is free improvised group music -- without preset co-ordinations among the musicians -- which allows for the evolution of organic forms through group process instead of under the control of any one musician.
For the most part my music is not focused on fixed pitches or scales but uses noises, sliding pitches and chords, and unusual or changing timbres within different rhythmic contexts. I use a quadraphonic amplification system with an automatically switching mixer which distributes the sounds to the four speakers.
Most of the materials I use to build my instruments are salvaged from my environment. They are cheap and easy to get, including the transducers which are scrounged from old phonograph cartridges or tachometers from heavy machinery.
Hot Lunch, plastic knee fiddle -- materials: knotty pine neck and body; pink plastic lunchtray soundboard with crystal pickup attached; strips of rubber and plastic, a cork, a stone, a spring doorstep are accessory noise-makers which are rubbed, scratched, and flapped; the fingerboard is also plastic and there are four strings. two wound bass strings (cello range) and two treble strings with the bridge approximately a third of the way up the string so there are two speaking lengths per string.
Wasservina, electric water vina -- a hybrid of the South Indian instrument crossed with the Northern Californian waterphone (invented by Richard Waters). Two stainless steel bowls are sealed on the bottom with another piece of stainless steel and contain a couple of cups of water. Crystal pickups are attached to each bottom and the sound from both is mixed at the preamp, mounted between the resonators on the redwood body. Two brass bridges are attached to the bowls and 8 strings pass over them: each string has five speaking lengths and the pitch of each length can be bent by pressing on the other side of the bridge. The instrument is plucked or bowed while it is held on the knees and , by undulating the knees, the water in each bowl is made to swirl over the bottom which changes the pitch and harmonic structure of the string, giving a flowing, watery effect. -Chris Brown
Tom Nunn is a musician and instrument maker. The instruments he makes are all originally designed and built. The instrumentation includes the Wavicle Board and Table Extensions, Crustacean, and assorted percussion consisting of found resonant objects such as bowls, pots, metal plates, rods, etc. Mr. Nunn is also designing and building other instruments to expand and complement this present instrumentation.
The Wavicle Board and Table Extensions are triangular shaped birch plywood sheets (3/4") with a variety of "devices" attached (screwed, glued, nailed, fitted, etc.) which may be played in a number of ways such as striking, plucking, bowing, scraping, rubbing or twisting. These devices include threaded rods (1/4"), bronze brazing rod (1/8"), stings with various bridges, sandpaper and plastic sheet surfaces, nails, springs, plastic clothes pins, velcro, glass beaker tops, etc. The arrangement of these devices on the boards and the shape of the boards have a sculptural aspect; however, being musical instruments, there is a concern for accessibility and playing motions in their design.
Some of the "implements" used in playing these instruments are small bows (homemade laminated plastic), plastic combs, various size threaded rods, large wood screws, percussion mallets, adapted mallets (with surgical rubber tubing), picks, plastic clothes pin, etc., as well as the hands, of course. The Table Extensions are amplified; the other sound boards are not. All of the sound boards are acoustic.
The Crustacean is one of a number of instruments invented by Mr. Nunn which he designates generically as balloon-mounted rodded metal sound radiators. These instruments are metal (usually stainless steel) plates with bronze (brazing) rods brazed onto the surface, with the instrument resting horizontally on inflated toy balloons in small buckets. The balloons support the body of the instrument -- the radiator -- without dampening the vibrations of the rods. The rods are bowed to produce rather pure, but colorful, tones. The Crustacean is a stainless steel disc 32" in diameter with such rods. The rods are shaped and of various diameters and lengths. Various bowing techniques -- speed, pressure, placement on rod, etc. -- will produce different tones on a given rod. This instrument is acoustic, highly resonant and toneful.
Chris Brown and Tom Nunn are currently making new music on original instruments in San Francisco.
Typed by Cheryl Vega 8-30-95