Instruments


Hammered Dulcimer - Appalachian Dulcimer - Bowed Psaltery - Lute - Mandolin - Bell Cittern - Sansula - HandSonic - Thunder Drum - Recorder - Flute - Percussion - Guitars

Top

Hammered Dulcimer
Hammered dulcimer at Summer Darkness (NL) by Arthur Koek

One of the oldest instruments (dating back to biblical times) the hammered dulcimer is known around the world under a variety of names: Hackbrett in Germany, Cymbalon in Eastern Europe, Santoor in India, Santur in the Middle East, Yang Ch'in in China, to name a few.
Dulcimers are closely related to psalteries and zithers and are commonly found in many kinds of folk, world and medieval music.
Nicholas' hammered dulcimer is a medieval/celtic fifty-eight string type handmade in Melbourne by Nick Morrey (Zen and Now Dulcimers). He also has another smaller hammered dulcimer made by the American maker Dusty Strings which he uses for concerts in Europe (pictured above).

On record:
  • All Becompassed By Stars: All Becompassed By Stars, Gravity, Sidereal
  • Selected Anachronisms: Stained Glass Colours, Running Water
  • ~An Inexact Science~: Stable, For The Next Time The Whole World Floods With Tears
  • Tunguska Butterfly/Light Streaming Down: To Drown Is To Follow, Begin Journey (ReJiggered)
  • Guest spots on other artists’ albums: ’Poetry’ Dandelion Wine Remix of The Crystaline Effect (featured on the album Glass), ’Point Of No Return’ by Winduptoys, (from the album Double Exposure), ’Kartika’ by The Eternal (from the album Kartika), ’Two Cats Return to the Underworld Part II: ‘Sardathrion’ by Louisa John-Krol (from the album Djin)

More information and history:
»
Encyclopedia Smithsonian: Hammer Dulcimer History and Playing
» Wikipedia: Hammered Dulcimer

 

Top

Appalachian Dulcimer
Appalachian dulcimer at Anthinoises Belgium by Maxine Lenglet

Also known as a mountain dulcimer, this instrument originated in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1700's and was derived from the traditional folk instruments of the German, Celtic, French and Scandinavian settlers.
Usually a four string instrument played on the lap, Nicholas plays a custom six string dulcimer made by Nick Morrey (Zen and Now Dulcimers) fitted with a pickup and plays it upright (guitar style).

On record:

  • All Becompassed By Stars: XVII, Nowhere
  • Selected Anachronisms : Thin Air, Quietly Safe, What Have You (Nonesuch)
  • ~An Inexact Science~: Found, Muscle Memory, Starry Messenger, Tulip Eyes
  • Tunguska Butterfly/Light Streaming Down: Begin Journey
  • Misc: Mellon Yellow (Slowdive cover; radio only promo)

More information and history:
»
A history of the mountain dulcimer

 

Top

 

Bowed Psaltery
Bowed Psaltery at Crustacean Creations

An old triangular shaped medieval instrument, similar to a dulcimer or zither but played with a short medieval bow. Psalteries also date back to biblical times, but the bowed version is a much later development. Nicholas' bowed psaltery is yet another Nick Morrey (Zen and Now Dulcimers) instrument and has thirty-three strings. It can be seen on the inner sleeve of ~An Inexact Science~.

On record:

  • Selected Anachronisms: Thin Air
  • Light Streaming Down: Begin Journey (ReJiggered)
  • Tunguska Butterfly: Weatherman
  • Misc: Mellon Yellow (Slowdive cover; radio only promo)
  • Guests spots with other artists: ’Two Cats Return to the Underworld Part II: ‘Sardathrion’ by Louisa John-Krol (from the album Djin)

More information and history:
»
History of the Bowed Psaltery

 

Top

 

Lute
Recording with Lute at Withers' Farm (AU)

The lute (Laute in German) first appeared in the middle ages and was based on the Arabic 'oud. Popular throughout medieval Europe, the lute was at its most prominent during the Renaissance and can be seen played by various angels and cherubim in numerous Renaissance paintings.
Nicholas' lute is a seventeen string Renaissance style instrument made by Gerhard Reither in Markneukirschen (Saxony, Germany) in 1974.

On record:

  • Selected Anachronisms: Twins, Running Water
  • ~An Inexact Science~: Little Pieces (ii), Malphacyte
  • misc: Prelude To Sleep (Lullabies and legends of Broceliande CD/book, Prikosnovenie 2011)

More information and history:
»
History of the Lute by renowned luthier Arthur Robb

 

Top

 

Mandolin
Mandolin

One of the standard instruments of Celtic and Italian folk music, Mandolins are basically four course (eight string) short necked lutes that are tuned like a violin. Nicholas played an arch top f-hole style mandolin.

On record:

  • Selected Anachronisms: Quietly Safe
  • ~An Inexact Science~: Tulip Eyes, Little Pieces (ii)
  • ReJiggered: To Drown Is To Follow (The Vicar of Birmingham Mix)

More information and history:
»
Wikipedia: Mandolin

 

Top

 

Bell Cittern
Bell cittern at Summer Darkness (NL) by Arthurk Koek

At the end of the 2008 Selected Anachronisms Europe/Japan Tour, Nicholas purchased a Bell Cittern handmade in London by English luthier Paul Hathway. The Bell Cittern is a small bell shaped instrument similar to a mandolin but with 12 strings tuned one octave higher than a guitar. Bell Citterns originated in Germany in the 1600s and were based on earlier medieval instruments such as gitterns and citoles.

On record:

  • All Becompassed By Stars: All Becompassed By Stars, Shards, Early Warning Sign, Orbit
  • Misc: Prelude To Sleep (Lullabies and legends of Broceliande CD/book, Prikosnovenie 2010)

 

Top

 


Sansula
sansula 1

A modern Austrian variation of the traditional African kalimba or m’bira (thumb piano) that uses small metal tines that are plucked with the thumb. Traditionally, thumb pianos were mounted on a block of wood (either solid or hollow) but the Sansula’s main block is mounted in the middle of a drum skin stretched across a circular frame. Best of all, it’s about the only acoustic instrument that has its own acoustic wah wah, and it doesn’t get much cooler than that. Naomi first encountered the Sansula while playing with Louisa John-Krol at the Trolls et Légendes festival in Mons, Belgium in 2009. She later ordered one from the good people at Prikosnovenie in France, who sell instruments through their Mandalia-Music website.

On record:

  • All Becompassed By Stars: XVII


More information :
» Sansulas at Mandalia Music

 

Top


HandSonic
Handsonic in Vilnius by Sieloj Ramiakas

The HandSonic is an electronic hand percussion unit - think V-Drums but for world percussion. The instrument is based around a circular drum pad that is comprised of 10 different pressure and position sensitive smaller pads and is designed to respond to the player’s dynamics the same way a real drum would. While it does not feel the same as playing a real drum, with a bit of practice it sounds incredible and is now what Naomi uses live for all of her darabukka, djembe, vibraphone, tambourine and cajon sounds, as well as a variety of electronic and industrial sounds. Nicholas also uses it for tabla and djembe sounds live too. Most of the percussion on Selected Anachronisms and pretty much all of All Becompassed By Stars was played on the HandSonic.

On record:

  • All Becompassed By Stars: All Becompassed By Stars, Gravity, Shards, Nowhere, Sidereal, Early Warning Sign, XVII
  • Selected Anachronisms: Thin Air, Quietly Safe, Running Water, What Have You (Nonesuch), Holding My Breath Again


More information:
»
Roland HandSonic homepage

 

Top


Thunder Drum
Thunder drum in Warszawa (PL) by Krzysztof Marianski,

Not really sure where to start on the thunder drum... the name suggests you hit it but you don’t, it’s played by gently shaking it from side to side. It’s a small cylinder with a drum skin stretched across one end that has a long coiled spring attached to it. It is also known as a Spring Drum, presumably because of this spring. We first came across it when playing a show with Wendy Rule, who’s percussionist William was using one. Soon after we found one in a music store in Tokyo while on tour and snapped it up. It sounds like, well thunder! It has only appeared on record a couple of times but Naomi frequently uses it live for accents and swells.

On record:

  • All Becompassed By Stars: Seven Times As Bright
  • Selected Anachronisms: Twins

 

Top



Recorder
Recorder in Solingen (DE) by Sabine Keller

For a lot of people the recorder has a bad reputation as being the wind instrument tortured by primary school students the world over but it is actually a beautiful sounding medieval flute when played properly and is central to a lot of medieval music. Yes, Naomi first started playing recorder in grade 5 and the recorder she tours with and plays in the studio is still the made-in-the-former-East Germany/DDR Adler model that she has had since grade 5. She once left it behind after a gig at the Toubadour in Brisbane but luckily Jamie the owner kept it behind the bar for her until the band played in Brisbane again.

On record:

  • Selected Anachronisms: What Have You (Nonesuch)
  • ~An Inexact Science~: Malphacyte
  • ReJiggered: Arc (Percussive Repercussions Mix)
  • Tunguska Butterfly: Arc
  • Misc: Arc (Things That Go Chunk In The Night Mix) - Crash Frequency Vol.2

More information and history:
»
All you could ever want to know about the recorder

 

Top



Flute
Flute in Vilnius (LT) by Sieloj Ramiakas

Naomi’s flute is a fairly battle scarred example that is in dire need of being replaced. It’s been through an insane number of flights, gigs in humid sweaty clubs, outdoor festivals from bushfire prone dust bowls in Australia to the damp Baltic forests and everywhere in between. The last time she tried to get it repaired the flute repairer told her it had become toxic and he wasn’t prepared to even touch it. We think he was a warmduscher. Whatever. It was still fine until it stopped working at a gig in Poland - no sound would come out at all. Thankfully our friend Torben in Berlin came through for us and lent us a replacement one for the recording of All Becompassed By Stars and the 2010 European tour. Naomi is currently looking for a new one...

On record:

  • All Becompassed By Stars: Nowhere, Orbit
  • Selected Anachronisms: Thin Air, Stained Glass Colours
  • ~An Inexact Science~: Stable, Malphacyte, Tulip Eyes, Starry Messenger
  • Light Streaming Down: To Drown Is To Follow, Les Parapluies Qui Ont Mange Le Paris
  • Tunguska Butterfly: Arc, Cat, To Drown Is To Follow, Weatherman
  • Guest spots with other artists: Djinn by Louisa John-Krol


More information and history:
»
Wikipedia: Flute
»
The physics of the flute

 

Top


Percussion
Some of Naomi's percussion array

Both Naomi and Nicholas use a wide array of percussion in the studio. The main pieces are a Rungo Drums djembe (bought largely because synthetic drums are often better for touring although it’s never actually been out on tour!), a ceramic doumbek, a variety of other bits and bobs such as rainstick, triangle, various shakers & tambourines and a mouse-shaped castanet affectionately knows as the Moustanet. These days most of these instruments stay in the studio and all of the percussion at concerts is done with the HandSonic, although all acoustic shows often feature the Moustanet and a couple of shakers.

On record:

  • All of pretty much everything! (except the All Becompassed By Stars album which is all HandSonic)

 

Top



Guitars
Rocking out wit hthe Strat through a 5150 in Vilnius (LT) by Sieloj Ramiakas

Yep, Nicholas loves guitars, no surprise there. What kind? Anything and everything he can get his hands on: electric six string, electric twelve string, classical, acoustic twelve string, acoustic six string... you name it, although his heavily modified Strat was his main guitar (it has since been usurped by a PRS). Anything electric goes through a vast array of modern, vintage, off the shelf and boutique effects pedals, racks and a couple of nice valve amps. Amongst Nicholas' guitars is a Kramer Ferrington that previously belonged to Neil Finn and was used on Crowded House tours in the 1980's. An original 1965 Fender Mustang has seen a lot of studio time in the current recordings and there are a few guitars lying around that are somewhat scary and best not mentioned...

 

Top





Photo credits:
Hammered dulcimer, flute, HandSonic & guitars in Vilnius by
SielojRamiakas; Appalachian dulcimer Anthinoises 2009 by Maxime Lenglet; Bell Cittern at Summer Darkness by Arthur Koek; Thunder drum in Warsaw by Krzysztof Marianski, Recorder at Schloss Burg Germany by Sabine Keller, Mandolin, bowed psaltery & percussion at Crustacean Creations and lute at Withers Farm by Naomi