Music For Seven Metal Machines

by Ernie Althoff

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Original liner notes

PARADE and BRICKLAYING were written in March 1990 to document and demonstrate some of the self-playing machines I built for various performances and installations over the past five years. Microphone placement for recording has significantly altered the audio characteristics of some of the machines from their original usage. All seven machines use metal as their main sound sources. They are all electronically powered, and work like this:

1. Four table tennis balls roll on a rotating metal hot water services lid. A contact-miked bamboo pole positioned like a billiard cue just inside the lid's rim knocks the balls apart when they congregate there.
2. Two wooden beads suspended from a rotating T-arm structure strike 25 tin cans placed in their path. The cans are of different sizes and open or closed. They rest on their sides or ends to maximise pitch and timbral variety.
3. A rotating rubber mat rubs the tightly spiralled end of a suspended contact-miked clock spring. Another shorter clock spring, also contact-miked, hangs alongside and bumps against the first vibrating spring.
4. Two bamboo sticks suspended from a rotating T-arm structure strike the edges of eight cymbals positioned on cardboard cones around the motor. The sticks also bounce off to strike the motor's plastic case.
5. An off-centre post on a rotating turntable pulls a string to set eight tubular aluminium chimes in motion. A wooden bead hangs between each pair of chimes, preventing them from striking each other.
6. Two bamboo sticks suspended from a rotating T-arm structure strike eight aluminium cooking pots (sans handles) in their path. Sometimes a stick bounces across the top of a pot, striking it on both the outer and inner edges.
7. A rotating leather strip rubs the edges of two suspended aluminium rectangles. A suspended wooden cotton reel also strikes a piece of rotating hollow square-section aluminium mounted at the turntable's centre.

PARADE is basically a showpiece: each machine approaches from the right, plays solo, moves left and duets with the following machine, and finally fades out to leave 'centre stage' for its successor.

BRICKLAYING uses all 35 ways of selecting four machines out of seven in equal time segments. The title is derived from the overlapping structure of the units on the four-part linear notation.

Both pieces were recorded at home using simple means, and are presented here with Dolby B and in reasonable stereo.

Ernie Althoff
March 1990

Reissue liner notes and original machine sketches at

Shame File Music, 2011.


released October 2, 2016



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Shame File Music Melbourne, Australia

Shame File Music specialises in documenting Australian experimental music, both contemporary and historical.

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