May 8, 2013

Old Friend First Ocarina

When I first started making ocarinas, they were basically art objects that could make a sound or two. As a visual artist, the embellished, painted surfaces were what I emphasized. Most of these early ocarinas were pinch pots put together, scraped then sanded to a smooth surface for painting with underglaze colors.

My very first ocarina, pictured above, was a thick-walled vessel that made a rather pressured, whining sound - I optimistically imagined it to be lilting. Since the holes were arranged in a straight line along the top surface of the vessel, it doubled as a water whistle. Filled with water and slowly swirled then emptied as I blew air through it, it created a sound reminiscent of a loon. This was quite apropos for the abstract bird design that I had painted on the surface with underglaze pigments and overglaze 24K gold enameling.

As time went by, as I became thinner skinned about foggy, vague and limited sounds, my
vessels became thinner walled and, with the help of a chromatic tuner, adjusted to chromatic scales and increased range. But lately I have been revisiting some of the older ocarinas and adjusting them with sanding and the use of a dremel to clarify and expand sounds. As an experiment on my first ocarina, I thought that I would relieve some of the pressure of the thick walls by drilling out a horn shape on the end opposite the mouthpiece. I suppose that technically this makes this piece now more of a horn than an ocarina but at least it would add color and volume to the sound. Of course this meant it would no longer be a water whistle - but I can always make more and better water whistles.

I had only a small dremel and this old ocarina was a lot thicker-walled than I had anticipated. As a consequence it took some time to bore out and shape the hole. And then it left this white bare clay hole. What to do? I just happened to have enough metal leaf to decorate this exit and the coloring seemed to match the exterior gilding well. So now my retrograde ocarina has been upgraded.

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