Long before the Rhodes piano made tines rock’n’roll, little resonating metal bars were called lamellae and were to be found lurking below the ornately-carved exteriors of Victorian musical boxes. Some of these clockwork devices were extraordinarily intricate, involving moving figures that twirled, danced, made gestures or appeared to speak before retiring into concealment. Larger mechanisms might have removable and replaceable drums, allowing you to play different tunes (possibly the earliest example of the hot-swappable storage drive?!). All of them were more or less crude attempts to bring the music of the symphony or chamber orchestra home to the individual consumer, to be set going whenever you might wish (so, possibly the precursor of the iPod, too…) Music Box celebrates this decidedly clockwork heritage but – of course – welds in some more contemporary strangeness along the way. At its core, Music Box is sampled from a 3-octave professional musical mechanism which runs its tunes from punched paper rolls, like a player piano, instead of a drum. This lets the user create whatever tune they wish, with a little paper punch. (We opted for a 3-octave scale – not very exciting, but good for sampling!) To record this, we clamped it to the soundboard of our Takamine acoustic guitar, tuned the open strings in unison, and put a capo on the neck in tune with whichever note we were sampling – so the guitar body adds a hefty dose of musically-relevant resonance to the initial pluck of the lamellae.
Alternative-universe steampunk Victorian musical box!
• Hundreds of samples for natural variation and character
• Sound design courtesy of synthesised FM tones, sample reverse and forced-pitching controls • Note-off samples for clunks, clicks, whirrs and chiffs
• 38 factory patches for all manner of real and alternative world inspiration