objects4JamesSaunders is a collection of objects compiled for a workshop with composer James Saunders on December 8, 2015, at the Hochschule für Musik Basel. James asked that each participant will bring the following objects: 1 pitched instrument, 10 objects capable of producing noise sounds, a selection of objects capable of producing pitched sounds, 3 recordings, and 5 different flat surfaces.

here are the objects i chose:

1 pitched instrument


10 objects capable of producing noise sounds

broken plastic cup, bubble wrap, crumpled paper, disposable cutlery, Durabase Mondial (radio 1), electric frothing wand (whose stick was slightly bent), recorder mouthpiece, slinky, Sony SRF-18 (radio 2), zoomH5plasticBox

a selection of objects capable of producing pitched sounds

my iPhone 4 and MacBook Pro’s charger placed close to a radio, pot lid, recorder mouthpiece, aluminum knitting needle

3 recordings

construction_site-klankbeeld, feedbackMacBookPro14timesSlower, stuckJunk

5 different flat surfaces

baking tray, cardboard, plastic tray, thin wooden strawberry tray, styrofoam



objects4JamesSaunders-x1 is based on several objects from objects4JamesSaunders, namely, a short corrugated tube (as the one of the saxoschlauch), an electric frothing wand whose stick was slightly bent, 3 slinkies (2 small and 1 larger), a Sony SRF-18, my iPhone 4, a styrofoam surface, and a cardboard surface. new objects were also introduced: a hacksaw, a brass bar (1 meter long, 15 mm wide, and 2 mm thick), a wooden box (that normally serves as my footrest), and a round glass table (my living room table). the text below is a guide to the possible sounds that this compound musical instrument can produce.

the slinkies

2 clamps are used to hold the slinkies, the styrofoam surface, and the round glass salon table together. 2 silver slinkies, 1 small and 1 larger, are fixed to one side, and a small golden slinky is fixed to the other. the small slinkies can be pulled and moved across the styrofoam to produce various rattles of which the timbre is determined by how stretched the slinkies are. it is also possible to pull a slinky with one hand and scrape it with the other (or with other objects) or to bounce it on the styrofoam, creating shorter and more percussive rattles. the larger slinky can be played as the smaller ones to produce similar but lower and heavier rattles, but it is also possible to produce with it “sci-fi laser battle” sounds by hitting and scraping it as it is, hung to the floor.

the bar

the brass bar is fixed to the round glass table with a third clamp. it can be rotated, hit, plucked, rubbed, sawed, etc. see vibrating_rulers for more information.

the Sony SRF-18

the Sony SRF-18 is a small radio/external speaker offering several possibilities for producing electronic sounds. facing away from the player, there is an OFF / AUDIO IN / RADIO switch on the left side, a volume wheel on the right side, and a tuning wheel, an AM/FM switch, and an antenna on the top. in addition to the inclusion of the sounds of radio stations and the typical “changing radio stations” sound, different noise colors can be produced by setting the tuning wheel to different dead stations and alternating between AM and FM (AM is rougher; FM is cleaner and “whiter”). when it is set to FM, it is possible to change the loudness of the noise or momentarily affect the radio’s reception, introducing stations to the noise or vice-versa, by touching the antenna. other variations in timbre are possible by covering the built-in loudspeakers with the hands and filtering the sound. shaking the radio as well as quickly covering and uncovering the loudspeakers create a subtle but noticeable effect.

set to AM, the radio can translate the electromagnetic waves of the iPhone 4 into sound, producing various noises and an interesting array of pitches. tones tend to predominate when the phone’s screen is off. noises are added and/or take over when the screen is on. the exact pitches and the kind of noises are determined by the station to which the radio is tuned and the distance between the phone and the radio. the tick-tock and the buzz that precedes an incoming call, if it is desirable, can be avoided by setting the phone to airplane mode. another object whose electromagnetic waves can be translated into sound by the radio is the electric frothing wand, whose motor is amplified and heard through basically any station (but with some variations in timbre). the pitch can be altered by interfering with the motor’s movement and the volume by moving it closer to or farther from the radio.

the corrugated tube, the electric frothing wand, and the hacksaw

the corrugated tube can be used to rub the different surfaces and objects. different parts of the tube produce different timbres: the edge is thinner and the middle is fuller. moreover, the tube’s resonance can be changed by one of the ends, and blowing air into the tube produces a high whistle whose pitch and loudness are determined by the intensity of blowing. the electric frothing wand can be used to produce motorized tremolos (because the stick of the frothing wand was slightly bent, the speed of the motor is significantly lower). different parts of it also sound differently: the handle sounds deep, and the stick and head sound brighter. lastly, with the hacksaw, in addition to the typical sawing sounds, sawing along the bar can produce high, shrilling squeaks.


objects4JamesSaunders-x1 can be heard and seen in pen1v111pg1_JRpDbCCo4JSxGP2Ks and 24d24iS_esO4bsPSpbVRssS2-EPB.

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