March 6, 2011

Giving a Fig for a Small Instrument of Music

The small bell at right is one of my latest ceramic instruments. I was attempting a different shape from my disk rattles in order to bring the shape closer to the Chinese Song dynasty rattles I had seen reproduced in From Mud to Music. My flattened disk shapes yielded a satisfying sound but The I was still curious about how a rounder shape with a round pellet would sound. My initial design featured a round casing with two sound holes cut into it in addition to the slit opening in front. Soon realizing that this bore an uncanny resemblance to Kermit the Frog, I tore off the casing and started over. This time I made only one center hole and burnished the exterior with a yellow ochre terra sigillata. It struck me that this shape with its amber surface looked very much like one of the brown turkey figs I harvest from my tree in the summer. Some of them in fact are lost to birds who like to peck a hole right in the middle of the fig then don’t even have the courtesy to carry it away and devour the rest of it.

My tiny fig rattle does not sound nearly as nice as my disk rattles. But it does have one surprise feature. The pellet inside is hollow and functions as a whistle. So what doesn’t rattle at least will toot.

No comments: