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date: 18 February 2020


  • Laurence Libin


Brazilian ensemble notable for its use of novel acoustic instruments. The quintet, founded in 1978–9 by the composer, cellist, and instrument maker Marco Antônio Guimarães (b 10 Oct 1948), was named for a mythical being of the Tukano people, whose perforated body sounded as wind blew over it, and from whose grave grew palm trees from which flutes were made. Among Uakti’s many unconventional instruments, mostly made by Guimarães, are so-called Pans, graduated lengths of PVC tubing recalling the tubes of a panpipe but struck by hand or with mallets; marimbas with bars of construction lumber or glass, both types mounted above movable soundboxes; bowed string instruments including the Iarra, a kind of cello with two sets of strings that can be fingered simultaneously, the Chori Smetano, said by its creator, Guimaraes’s teacher Walter Smetak, to be able to evoke opposite feelings simultaneously, and the Torre, a PVC tube with strings stretched along it—the tube is turned on its axis by a handle while another person bows it, creating chords that vary with the speed of the turning and the number of strings bowed; and drums such as the Trilobyte, comprising 10 PVC tubes in a frame, with drum heads over the top openings, played melodically by two drummers. Uakti also employs conventional and traditional instruments of several cultures. The group’s success, for example in collaboration with Philip Glass, has led to imitation by other musicians seeking new sounds from familiar materials....

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