Monday, July 6, 2009

Vertical music

Modern designers Charles and Ray Eames were more than just designers. I'm not sure what word to use that really describes what they did. They played with things. They took cool pictures of things and put together slides shows to share with people. They collected objects that pleased them. They made toys for kids. They played with toy trains. Their house, constructed with off-the-shelf steel components, had ladders that hooked to the ceiling beams so that you could hang something from the ceiling when the fancy struck them. They even let their grandkids swing on ropes hung from the ceiling, and knock down stacks of cardboard boxes for fun.

When we visited the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, the docent who led the tour drew our attention to something on the studio wall. I thought maybe it was a train-track for a toy train, like the ones they'd made a film about - but mounted so it ran straight up the wall.

It's a vertical xylophone.

Keys taken from childrens' toy xylophones - the metal painted in bright colors - rest in notches made in two wooden boards attached to the wall.

A marble dropped from the top rebounds against the keys as it falls, sounding the notes.

Tunes are made by arranging the keys in whatever order you please, or by slipping carboard spacers in to mute keys you don't want to sound.

There are an infinite number of tunes possible. A single marble, handfuls of marbles, a bucketful of marble.

I can't tell you how happy this made me. Think of children, dropping pebbles down a chute. I wish I could play with it myself, forever.


mo.stoneskin said...

I hope you knocked out some Rachmaninov.

shrink on the couch said...

This is reminding me of the Charles Moore House in Austin. He was an architect. His house has all manner of the whimsical.

cactus petunia said...

It just proves my theory that all artists are kids at heart.

Beverly said...

Awesome!!! You have to love minds that work like this. I love different perspectives on design and life.

Anonymous said...

How cool is that? No two tune will ever be the same and that is very interesting :-)

Woman in a Window said...

I find it so difficult to fathom people whose minds work like this. Appreciate it greatly but I do believe the are wired so differently.

Anonymous said...

That is SO COOL! An indoor xylophone rainstick... Brilliant!