Like Rudy Van Disarzio [pictured] and Spider Dijon, are you on a musical quest for that elusive new sound? Perhaps a snazzy new instrument to impress the punters? Or does your talent demand more necks, buttons, frets, patches, motors, or just loud noises?! If you’re nodding and suddenly feeling warmer inside, then you need to be friends with clatterbox.clatterbox is the sidetable on which the key to open the door to the semi-anarchic world of experimental musical instrument building sits – unless the last person to use it forgot to put it back – in which case go around to the back door.
If you get excited by people creating, modifying, extending, perverting, or destroying new acoustic and electronic instruments then clatterbox is your daily bread.
Now based in Melbourne, clatterbox is a tiny not-for-profit company that promotes the creators and players of new and unique musical instruments.
Beneath the furry blue and black exterior of Michael Norris’ instrument Sound Potty is a small labyrinth of irrigation tubing, mobile phone condenser microphones, and an air filter from a Holden Commodore. All of this works to produce an amazing acoustic chamber for bending and filtering all sorts of sounds.
Norris wrapped fourteen different lengths of tubing around the air filter, each tube and contour of tube offering a different filtering of sound. The tubes curl around in two symmetrical bunches, forming small chambers, each containing a mobile phone condenser microphone. The chambers are acoustically shielded using everything from lead sheeting to old socks. The manifold is then mounted into a wooden box, covered in blue fur with black spots. Audio output jacks, batteries, and a volume control are located amongst the fur.
So with the acoustic manifold constructed, what to do with it? Norris used a myriad of sound making devices: tin clickers, Chinese chime balls, marbles rolling in a tin, sparks from a gas lighter, crinkling foil… the possibilities were endless. Once descended into the manifold, moving objects around would bend and alter the pick-up and filter of sounds. A ‘near-to-far’ effect by lifting the object up and down from the plane of the tubes, or an ‘up-down’ effect by moving the object towards the longer tubes (lower filter) or shorter tubes (higher filter).
Norris twice performed the Sound Potty live in Brisbane before retiring it to a shed at his parent’s place in Nambour.