You are looking at  1-20 of 21 articles  for:

  • 20th c. (1900-2000) x
  • Instrument Maker x
  • Musical Concepts, Genres, and Terms x
Clear All

Article

Robert B. Winans

revised by Jonas Westover

(b Holyoke, MA, Jan 17, 1871; d Newfane, VT, Nov 18, 1948). American banjoist and banjo maker. He began his career playing with a medicine show and a Wild West show, then from 1890 to 1915 performed in a vaudeville act with his wife. He studied with ALFRED A. FARLAND in the mid- 1890s and about 1897 organized the Bacon Banjo Quintette. He toured with the Bacon Trio in 1905–6, and made another very successful tour in 1908 with “The Big Three,” consisting of himself, the guitarist William Foden, and the mandolinist Guiseppe Pettine. Bacon continued to play into the 1940s and his few recordings attest to his virtuoso performances; contemporary reviewers praised his tone, his great technique, and the expressiveness of his playing. He taught, published several method books, and wrote many arrangements and compositions for five-string banjo. Bacon also designed banjos, bringing out his first instrument in ...

Article

Laurence Libin

(b Bronx, NY, Oct 22, 1946). American luthier, notable for handmade archtop jazz guitars. In childhood he learned woodworking from his father, a skilled cabinetmaker, and music from an uncle, a violinist; his grandfather had worked for Steinway & Sons. A visit to the Gretsch guitar factory in Brooklyn fueled his interest in the instrument; he played a Chet Atkins model 6120 guitar from 1960 to 1968. Upon discharge from the US Air Force in 1968 he started to make his first guitar and began repairing Gibson, D’Angelico, and New York Epiphone instruments. At the time he was the youngest and least experienced archtop maker of a group that included William Barker, Carl Barney, Roger Borys, James D’Aquisto, Sam Koontz, and Philip Petillo. In the 1970s jazz guitarists such as Bucky Pizzarelli, Chuck Wayne, and Martin Taylor began to use and endorse Benedetto’s instruments. He incorporated his business as Benedetto Guitars, Inc., but in ...

Article

Caroline Polk O’Meara

(b Dumbarton, Scotland, May 14, 1952). American Musician, visual artist, and filmmaker of Scottish birth. He has worked across a range of media, attracting much critical admiration. With drummer Chris Frantz and bass player Tina Weymouth, in 1974 he formed Talking heads, one of the best-known bands of the early punk-rock movement in the 1970s. With Byrne serving as the primary songwriter and front man, they made their first public performance opening for the Ramones at CBGB & OMFUG. On their second album Byrne worked with English producer Brian Eno, which marked the beginning of a productive and longstanding relationship. Eno recorded the band’s next three albums and collaborated with Byrne on the albums My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981) and Everything that Happens will Happen Today (2008).

Since the early 1980s Byrne has produced a variety of work as a musician, artist, and writer. In ...

Article

Mareia Quintero Rivera

(b San Juan, PR, July 10, 1910; d Carolina, PR, July 21, 1996). American Puerto Rican composer, singer, percussionist, dancer, and drum-maker. A master of traditional bomba and plena, he was one the most prominent figures of Afro-Puerto Rican musical folklore in the 20th century. He is also known for his commitment to passing down these traditions to subsequent generations. Together with his wife, Caridad Brenes, a gifted dancer, he raised a family of skilled practitioners and maintained a lifelong practice of teaching in the community of Villa Palmeras, Santurce, the working-class area where they lived.

Cepeda was a key figure in gaining national and international recognition for Afro-Puerto Rican musical genres. In the 1940s he created an ensemble for radio performances, and he later developed a stage version of bomba, which he presented in San Juan’s major hotels. Several of his compositions were popularized by Ismael Rivera and Rafael Cortijo. Cepeda also developed ties with the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, founded in ...

Article

Richard Johnston

Guitar, mandolin, and ukulele manufacturer. It was founded in Houston, Texas, in 1976 by Bill Collings (b 1948), who had moved from Ohio to Texas following a failed attempt at medical school. After building a few guitars and some banjos, Collings moved to Austin in 1979. His background as a machinist led him to emphasize precise jigs and fixtures even when he was working out of a small single-car garage. Demand for Collings guitars, specifically for updated versions of Martin and Gibson flat-top styles from the 1930s, prompted his move to a 1,000-square-foot shop in 1989. Two woodworkers were hired, including Bruce Van Wart, who is still in charge of wood selection and top voicing on the firm’s acoustic guitars. By this time, production had increased to a level that allowed sales to a few retailers.

In late 1991 the company relocated to a much larger facility on the outskirts of Austin, and the number of Collings guitar models, and employees, began to grow. Bill Collings was one of the first flat-top guitar builders to offer fully carved arch-top models as well. These deluxe jazz guitars were quickly accepted as the equals of those from premier American builders, and they sold for similar prices; but only a few were completed each year. Collings was also one of the first small, independent guitar companies to incorporate CNC (computer numerical control) carving machines for building both guitar parts and the precise tooling to aid in their assembly, which is still done by hand. One of the signature differences between the Collings models and the Gibson and Martin originals that inspired them is that Collings uses an unglued bolted mortise and tenon neck joint, rather than a traditional dovetail....

Article

Laurence Libin

(b Napier, New Zealand, May 14, 1946). Intermedia artist whose transdisciplinary practice includes video/sound work and installations, experimental instruments, graphic scores, and improvisation. He studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland (DipFA Hons, 1971) and the University of West Sydney, Nepean (MA Hons, 2000). Since the early 1970s his sound-based artworks have involved newly invented instruments. A member of the original Scratch Orchestra in London (1968–9), Dadson founded Scratch Orchestra (NZ) in 1970 and later From Scratch (1974–2004). A key part of From Scratch’s development was instrument invention, from using found objects to making unique, custom-designed devices. Tunings evolved from randomly pitched sounds to 12-note and microtonal tunings, and just intonation. Central to this development were tuned percussion stations composed of rack-supported, four-tiered assemblies of PVC pipes, tuned-tongue bamboos and bells (in which parallel slots cut in the materials produce a vibrating tongue matching the resonant frequency of the open or closed tubes), and roto-tom drums, combined with special methods of playing. These percussion stations, along with other novel struck and spun acoustic instruments, produced the characteristic From Scratch sound. More recent instruments include the Zitherum (long-stringed instruments that are drummed and bowed), the metal-pronged Nundrum, the stroked RodBaschet, the gong tree, Foley-trays, the Water Cooler Drumkit, water bells, the Gloop-spring-string-drum family, the Sprong family, and other fanciful types....

Article

Laurence Libin

(b Jirapa, Ghana, June 22, 1958). Ghanaian xylophone maker, player, and teacher. Born into a family of gyilli makers and players in northwest Ghana, Doozie began playing at six years of age. When he was 12 his father taught him to make his first gyilli and he was a practised maker by age 15. After secondary school Doozie moved to Accra to become a xylophonist with the Ghana Dance Ensemble. He was also an instructor at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon. Among other appointments, he has performed with the National SO Ghana and has been associated with the Institute of African Studies and the music and performing arts departments of the University of Ghana. In 1990 he established a workshop to produce xylophones; he made the xylophones used in the Broadway production of The Lion King. He has also restored instruments in museum collections. He continues to teach and perform and is managing director of Dagarti Arts and Music in Accra and a member of the Arts Council of Ghana. He is also involved in promoting fair trade practices. Doozie’s xylophone bars—from eight to 18 for each instrument—are made of aged, fire-dried planks of wood from male shea trees. Gourd resonators are affixed under the bars, which are tied to the curved frame. The tips of the wooden beaters are padded with rubber recycled from tyres....

Article

Duo-Art  

Article

(b Luxembourg, Aug 16, 1884; d New York, Aug 19, 1967). American writer, publisher, and inventor. In 1904 he emigrated to America, where in 1908 he founded the first of a series of radio magazines (including Radio-Craft) which he wrote for and edited. He later turned to science fiction magazines (from ...

Article

J. Bryan Burton

[Goyaałé, Goyathlay, Goyahkla ]

(b New Mexico, 1829; d Fort Sill, OK, Feb 17, 1909). Native American instrument maker, singer, medicine man, prophet, and military leader. He is better known in Western history for his military leadership of Western Apache resistance to reservation life during the 1880s. Goyaałé (“One who yawns”) was given the name Geronimo after an attack on a Mexican village on St. Jerome’s day when terrified Mexican soldiers cried out “Jeronimo” appealing for help from St. Jerome. After his surrender he was held as a prisoner of war, first in St. Augustine, Florida, then in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, until his death. His celebrity was such that he often made public appearances, including at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, rode in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1904, and wrote an autobiography with S.M. Barrett, the Oklahoma superintendent of education.

As a medicine man (Apache: diyan), Goyaałé performed Apache sacred ceremonies and rituals that required the knowledge of a vast repertoire of traditional songs sung during the ceremonies. A number of the songs he created were collected for Natalie Curtis’s ...

Article

Hugh Davies

(M.Y. de P. )

(b Rheims, France, 1899; d La Varenne St-Hilaire, St-Maur-des-Fossés, France, Nov 9, 1963). French engineer and physicist. He was one of the pioneers of electronic instruments and especially of the electronic organ in the 1920s and early 1930s; some of his instruments were constructed in collaboration with the organ builder Edouard Eloi Coupleux. In 1917 or 1918, while working in the radio laboratory at the Eiffel Tower in Paris (at the same time as Maurice Martenot and Joseph Béthenod), Givelet first conceived the idea of electronic instruments based on the pitches that could be produced and varied by placing one’s hand near or on certain components in a radio receiver. His idea for a dial-operated instrument (similar to the later Dynaphone and Ondium Péchadre) was not followed up until the mid-1920s, when he returned to studying the possibilities of electronic instruments.

Givelet’s first completed electronic instrument, the monophonic keyboard ...

Article

Daniele Buccio

(b Redwood City, CA, April 19, 1954). American composer, guitarist, instrument builder, educational technology specialist, and media designer. He attended classes with Robert Sheff, robert Ashley , and terry Riley at Mills College (1972–3) and studied at Canada College in Redwood City (1973–4), California, Cabrillo College in Aptos, California (1974–5), San Francisco State University (1975–6), and Virginia Commonwealth University (1976–7). In the late 1970s he collaborated with Serge Tcherepnin on the construction of the Modular Music System. In the early 1980s he was appointed technical director at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music and in 1989 he became a lecturer at California State University in Hayward; then he taught at Diablo Valley College, Expression College for Digital Arts, and San Jose State University. He held composer residencies at Mills College Center for Contemporary Music (1992), Amsterdam’s Steim (...

Article

Thomas Owens

[Thomas Joseph ]

(b Milwaukee, May 20, 1931). American accordionist and musical equipment manufacturer. He began accordion lessons in Milwaukee at the age of 11 and from 1944 to 1949 studied the instrument in Chicago. Harry James heard him in a club in Milwaukee in 1951 and in January 1952 engaged him as a (non-jazz) soloist on his television show in Los Angeles. In 1955 Gumina left James to work independently, first as a soloist and later with his own group. From 1960 to 1965 he led a quartet with Buddy DeFranco which made several recordings; he also recorded with Willie Smith in 1965. During the 1960s he began using an electronically modified instrument capable of producing organ-like effects. He played at Donte’s, North Hollywood, with Art Pepper in 1974, but thereafter performed only intermittently, concentrating instead on running Polytone Musical Instruments (also in North Hollywood), a company he founded in ...

Article

Joe Wilson

(b Watauga Co., NC, Oct 13, 1911). American Banjoist, folksinger, and instrument maker. He was born into a family of Appalachian folk musicians; his father, Roby Monroe Hicks, taught him to make banjos (the first ofwhich he built when he was 15) and Appalachian dulcimers, and from his father and his mother, Buna Presnell Hicks, he learned Anglo-American ballads and instrumental techniques. His grandfather, a storyteller, taught him “Jack tales,” Appalachian stories of German American origin. Hicks also learned to dance in a flat-footed, “jumping jack” style. His instruments, which are notable for their high level of craftsmanship, are made from cherry and walnut wood grown near his farm in Vilas, North Carolina; the heads of his banjos are made of groundhog hides. He also produces a number of folk toys. Hicks has appeared at the North Carolina Folk Festival, the National Folk Festival, and the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife. Hicks received the Brown-Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folk Society in ...

Article

Harry B. Soria

[Apuakehau, Jr., Joseph Kekuku‘upenakana‘iapuniokamehameha ]

(b La‘ie, Oahu, Hawaii, 1874; d Dover, NJ, Jan 016, 1932). American steel guitarist, teacher, and inventor. The Hawaiian steel guitar’s invention is largely credited to Joseph Kekuku. Joseph and his cousin, Samuel Kalanahelu Nainoa (1877–1950) were raised in the rural village of La‘ie, Oahu. By the age of 11, the close companions had become skilled musicians under the tutelage of the elders of La‘ie. Prior to the creation of the Hawaiian steel guitar, Hawaiian musical combos featured primarily violin, flute, “Spanish” guitar, and ‘ukulele performances. Sam played the violin, while Joseph spent much of his time trying to make his guitar sound like Sam’s violin.

Joseph’s first experiments involved running various implements across the strings of a conventional gut-string guitar, including a steel bolt, a penknife, a pocket comb, a dull straight razor blade, and a tumbler, with the guitar laying across his lap. When the cousins enrolled as boarding students at Kamehameha School for Boys in the fall of ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

(b Bermuda, July 10, 1957). American audio engineer, musician, and owner of Keith McMillen Instruments, based in Berkeley, California. He received his BS in acoustics from the University of Illinois, where he also studied classical guitar and composition. In 1979 he founded Zeta Music, which designed and sold electric and electronic violins and basses. In 1992 he organized a research laboratory for Gibson Guitars. He developed a computerized composition, notation, and performance system, and also helped devise ZIPI, a MIDI-like music control language. At the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at the University of California, Berkeley, he researched audio networking, synthesizers, and string instruments. In 1996 he became director of engineering for the audio processing and distributed music networks division of Harmon Kardon. In 1999 he founded Octiv, Inc., an Internet audio signal processing company, which produced the ‘Volume Logic’ plug-in for iTunes that allows digital audio remastering to improve the sound produced by computers and MP3 players....

Article

Laurence Libin

(b ?1857; d Petrograd, Russia, Aug 22, 1916). Russian luthier, developer of the modern balalaika. He has been called the ‘Russian Stradivarius’. His life is not reliably documented; some sources place his birth in the 1870s. An unschooled peasant but gifted woodworker, he had been apprenticed to a carpenter in Vologda province. It is said that, intending to seek work in St Petersburg, he was able to travel only as far as Eremkovo, where he worked for two years as a carpenter and began to make balalaikas, assembling the bodies from pieces of wood rather than carving them. His work attracted the attention of V.V. Andreyev (1861–1918), a virtuoso performer and reviver of Russian folk instruments, who in 1890 persuaded Nalimov to start a balalaika workshop near his home in Márino. Supposedly, Nalimov began using maple taken from the door and window jambs of Andreyev’s house. With Andreyev’s encouragement Nalimov built about 170 balalaikas in a family of sizes as well as many other string instruments during the following 20 years. With his salary from Andreyev he was able to buy a house opposite Andreyev’s manor. In ...

Article

Paula Conlon

[‘Doc’ Tate ]

(b Fletcher, OK, July 3, 1932; d Lawton, OK, March 5, 1996). Native American (Comanche) maker and player of juniper flutes. He attended the Fort Sill Indian School and Haskell Indian Institute. He learned flute making from the Kiowa maker Belo Cozad (1864–1950) and the Lakota maker Richard Fool Bull (1887–1976). He used the traditional method of splitting the wood, carving the channel, boring the holes, and inserting the plug, then gluing the flute back together with sap, binding it with leather thongs, and attaching the external block. His first album, Indian Flute Songs from Comanche Land (NAM 401C, n.d.), was the first commercial recording consisting entirely of music for solo Indian flute. He introduced new playing techniques, including cross-fingerings to extend the range, and extending the warbling sound on the lowest tone to all the available pitches, thus expanding the flute’s repertoire and contributing to its revival in the latter 20th century. Tate (the English name given to him) was recognized as a National Heritage Fellow in ...

Article

Mark Tucker

[Polfuss, Lester William ]

(b Waukesha, WI, June 9, 1915; d White Plains, NY, Aug 12, 2009). American guitarist and guitar maker. He was largely self-taught on guitar and played with country-music groups before performing on his own radio show in Chicago during the 1930s. A growing interest in jazz led to the formation of the Les Paul Trio with the singer Jimmy Atkins and the bass player Ernie Newton; after moving to New York in the late 1930s, the group appeared with Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians for five years and later performed with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. Paul’s childhood fascination with radio technology led to his early adoption of electric amplification and the propensity for technical experimentation throughout his career. He was actively involved in testing and adapting hollow- and solid-body electric guitars with electromagnetic pickups in the 1930s and 40s, sometimes in conjunction with guitar makers. In ...

Article

Timo Leisiö

[Feodor Safronoff ]

(b Soikkola, Russian West Ingria, Nov 7, 1886; d Helsinki, Finland, Jan 5, 1962). Ingrian musician and instrument maker who became a symbol of Finnish folk music. As a boy on the southeastern shore of the Gulf of Finland he worked as a shepherd during several summers and learned to make and play local flutes (soittu), trumpets (wooden torvi, truba), and the Baltic psaltery (kantele). Being an orphan he lacked social status, and therefore emigrated to Finland in 1913. During World War I he played the french horn in a Russian army band. After Finland gained independence, in 1917, he settled there, changed his name Feodor Safronoff to Teppo Repo, and worked as a policeman and later as a mechanic (chiefly employed by the Singer sewing machine company); instrument making was always a part-time occupation. After starting to play Ingrian music in Helsinki he was recruited as an entertainer by patriotic forces in the early 1930s, and soon performed across Finland and abroad; his improvised melodies represented to his public the folk music of all Finnic peoples (Estonians, Karelians, Finns, etc.) even though his style was based on the music of his childhood and not truly representative of other national traditions. His flutes, horns, and trumpets, of which he made and sold an unknown number, can be found in museums from Japan to the USA. Some represent 19th-century Ingrian traditions foreign to Finland; others are of widespread European types. His straight and curved ...