The Springboard (Pt. 2, Initial Experimentations)

This is the second of a number of posts pertaining to the progress of my 21M.299 (The Social Lives of Instruments) final project, The Springboard.

By now I have received enough materials to begin experimenting with my Springboard ideas.

The first item I received was my bow. Prior to this, I had only held a bow once, so this was definitely new to me. The first thing I did was familiarize myself with it and look up how bows are tightened and typically held; it turned out there’s no completely standard way to hold one (there are variations on a basic grip), so I just held it as was comfortable. I then applied the rosin, which was difficult since it was a new bar and completely smooth. After scratching the surface, the rosin began transferring from the bar onto the bow.The next thing I did was look around my room for something to play. My bass guitar was in lab, so I couldn’t try that… but wait, what’s this?

My desk lamp has springs! So I began to play my lamp with a bow.

Initially it was awkward to get a tone out of the springs. First I needed to figure out how to run the bow along the springs- I quickly discovered that the best way was near-parallel along the length of the springs. When perpendicular, the hair of the bow tended to get caught between the individual coils, risking damage to the bow and also not generating any sound.

After figuring this out, I started getting tone. Initially the tones were high pitched and piercing, similar to a large metal thing being dragged across a concrete surface. However after some practice, I began to achieve a sustained lower tone that was more harmonic and less piercing.

I adjusted the lamp in order to see how stretching the spring affected the tone. I expected that pitch would correlate to length, however it seemed to affect timbre much more. Longer stretched lengths provided a clearer tone, whereas shorter lengths seemed more harmonically “dirty” and guttural.

One uncertainty that arose was a change in pitch depending where along the bow I was. Meanwhile speed of bowing had no affect on the pitch (but on the loudness and timbre). I’m unsure why the pitch changed depending on where along the bow I was, but I suspect this is a fluke to this particular setup- possibly uneven application of rosin?

Once the real springs arrive further testing can be done.

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