Archive for May, 2010

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Pinch Pot Ball Ocarinas


Pinch Pot Ball Ocarina - Finger HolesOf all the flutes, whistles, and ocarinas that I have posted on, the one that seems to show up in search engine results the most often is a simple pinch pot ball whistle from 2008. Entering the search string, Pinch Pot Whistle, into Google image search generally pulls that same image up within the top few results. There are several conclusions that one can draw from that, but I prefer to think that there are other people experimenting with hand-constructed whistles using nothing more than simple pinch pots.

Pinch Pot Ball Ocarina - Head and FippleThis particular piece employs the same basic construction, but raises the bar from whistle to a full octave ocarina. Two half sphere pinch-pots are joined by scoring the rims, adding a bit of slip, then carefully matching the edges so that a hollow ball results. At that point, the ball is allowed to rest in a sealed container so that the joint will mature and the ball reaches the leather hard stage. Meanwhile, the tubular mouthpiece, the pulled handle, and any surface decorations are built and allowed to rest prior to assembly.

Pinch Pot Ball Ocarina - FipplePerhaps the most critical step in constructing a tone-producing clay instrument is the carving of the tone hole and the assembly of the mouthpiece-tube so that the richest possible resonance occurs when air is blown through the tube. There are a few simple rules for the alignment, hole shape, and wedge positioning but I’ll not get into those details here…and certainly there are other methods of getting air into the instrument besides the manner illustrated here. Carving of finger holes is not an exact science but involves placement for ease of fingering (taking into consideration the shrinkage from drying and from firing) and understanding that proper hole size will adjust the pitch of each tone.

Dr. Bowen will have something to say about his discoveries that did not always turn out well for the person playing the instrument. For now, there are still questions of how similar were the techniques used over 1,000 years ago to the techniques that those searching Google for examples will find today. E.B. would say that it is part of the mystery of music and man’s attraction to making music his own.

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Tlapitzquiquiztli - Horned Flute of the ConchCombining large pinchpot pieces with pulled handles can take some time, particularly when there are ceramic gymnastics involved…and this piece definitely qualifies.  The basic components were scored, slipped, joined and then braced while resting on the banding wheel.  At leather hard stage, the fipple of the ocarina was added and scoring for the areas to be sculpted was roughed out.  At each step, the entire piece received a light misting and was allowed to rest, completely covered,  overnight.  There is still much to be done, but a peek into the process might help others understand how these things are built.

The intent of the construction is to represent a snail (or conch), complete with shell and proboscis.  References to animals and use of animal part (tortoise shell, conch, animal bone, etc.) were common among Mayan wind instruments, and although this particular instrument is the object of a fictional story, it will produce multiple sounds.

I do wonder if the workspace of Mayan musical instrument makers ever became as cluttered as the space where this piece is sitting.  I’ll have to ask E.B. if there isn’t some sort of ancient proverb that suggests that out of chaos comes creativity 🙂

EB Note Top“Only brief mentions in ancient text speak of a rare flute that mimics the conch and snail. This rare find could be but one survivor of the Cenote at Uxmalico. The glyph imprints have not been identified, but the instrument is definitely ceremonial. Once clear of silt and several hundred years of debris, I’ll not be surprised if this piece still plays. I have named the instrument, Tlapitzquiquiztli – Horned Flute of the Conch.”
EB Signature

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My Name is Paul…


…and I make whimsical, ceramic musical instruments called “MugPhlutes”.  Playing in the mud is stress relief for me…it is my favorite outlet for sculpting and making unusual objects that produce sound.  “M” is for MugPhlute offers  a peek at the craziness of the construction process and how some of these objects relate to the fictional tales of Dr. Ephriam Bowen, Music Archeologist of the Yucatan.  Dr. Bowen has Chenoweth family connections that will be discussed later (it may explain some of the craziness).  Notes from his journal about an ancient, mysterious, musical  priesthood who roamed the Yucatan Peninsula during the Mayan era will dot this blog periodically.  His discoveries are unbelievable amazing.

Pinch Pot Ball WhistleFollow along.  There may be a new pottery studio that evolves from this. Who knows, some of these creations may find their way to a shopping cart. Hang on to your wallet.

Your comments are welcome, but be nice.  Critiques are welcome. Comments from the planets Spam, Jerk, Flame, Pharma, MLM, and Weirdo will be deleted and unceremoniously chucked into one of Dr. Bowen’s remote sacrificial cenotes.