In 2006, sound artist Tomoko Sauvage attended a Terry Riley concert in Paris and heard an instrument that utterly entranced her - it was called the jalatharangam. As the name might suggest, it originally hails from Southern India and consists of a series of porcelain filled with water which are "played" by striking them with small bamboo rods.
Not long after the concert, Sauvage had constructed her own jalatharangam from bowls she picked up in the local Chinatown and set to work trying to replicate classical Indian ragas on them. As she immersed herself in this new instrument, however, her focus shifted and she became fixated on the sound of the water itself; using tiny underwater microphones to capture it dripping and rippling in the individual bowls.
The recorded results of this inspired take on an ancient instrument are available as mp3 excerpts on The Wire website and as streams on the artist's website, and they are truly spellbinding. (Also, for a substance as immaterial as water, the tones produced are surprisingly strong and resonant; sounding in places like detuned bells.)
If you'd like to see how she produces these sounds, here's a video of a performance from September last year:
And if you want to hear more, keep an ear out for her debut solo album, Ombrophilia, which means "love of rain" and is due out on either/OAR later this year.Posted by Warren at May 9, 2009 05:09 PM | Instruments