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Exploring experimental instruments with BA (Hons) Sound Arts

Staff collaborate to create a range of experimental instruments showcasing the possibilities of noise, sound, and alternative music.

Embracing our interdisciplinary approach to thinking and making, academic staff Russell Cleave and Harrison Newman have collaborated to create a range of instruments to showcase the possibilities of noise, sound, and experimental music.

Russell Cleave, Technical Demonstrator - Multimedia Lab, has been a touring musician, recording artist, recording engineer and filmmaker for over 30 years. He’s always had a keen interest in experimental music, alongside manipulating, exploring and researching sounds.

Working with the BA (Hons) Sound Arts team has shown me how exciting it is to explore sound through crafting experimental instruments.
Harrison Newman

Harrison Newman, Workshop Coordinator - Materials Lab, is a woodworker and contemporary painter who has worked with high-profile artists and organisations across the UK. Harrison is interested in innovative techniques and how traditional crafts and modern technologies can be combined.

Sonic Wand

We spoke to Russell to find out more about the collaboration, “With Plymouth College of Art’s facilities and workshops we really have the ability to make pretty much anything.

"I'd been really interested in Intonarumori and experimental musical instruments invented and built by the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo. It consists of a single string in a large acoustic box continuously bowed by a circular disk and amplified through a drum skin. There is also a movable bridge control with a lever to change the pitch. The result is a tunable droning sound which is a perfect suspense builder for any film sound design.”

Doom Hoover

“For the creation of our second machine we made an apprehension engine, invented by Mark Korven, the film score composer. His inspiration for the machine came from his boredom with the overused sound options for the horror genre. He was commissioned to score Robert Eggers ‘The Witch’ (2015) so it was the perfect opportunity to make something new.

"It was great to work with Harrison again adding some extras (a nail violin) to the apprehension engine. We plan to build a second one with a completely new set of sounds.”

Apprehension Engine (with added nail violin)

Our BA (Hons) Sound Arts course offers a number of specialist areas of study, where you’ll be supported in focusing your development and experience, including site-specific and environmental sound, multimedia and applied sound, sound design for media, and live performance. Find out more here.