Real Instruments, Real Stories – creating emotion through sound.
What if I told you there was a phone that can be bowed, struck, scratched, plucked or caressed in any manner to create the perfect atmospheric sounds for your film? Put a little water in it and you will get some amazing results. No I’m not talking about the latest iPhone! The Waterphone is a percussion instrument originating from France. An unusual instrument to look at, it consists of a wide stainless steel resonating bowl surrounded by brass rods of various lengths and a long tube like neck. What is so remarkable about the waterphone is that it can be played in almost any way to create a diverse range of sounds. It can be struck like a percussion instrument or bowed and plucked like a string instrument. This versatile instrument comes in various sizes and thus creates a range of frequencies from a low “whale” like sound to a high and screeching sound.There’s a distinct metallic yet malleable quality to the Waterphone’s sound which makes it an amazing instrument for creating atmospheric textures – perfect for film.Percussion virtuoso and Audio Network composer, Dame Evelyn Glennie has long been an enthusiast of the Waterphone, praising the instrument for its versatility in composition.
“The sounds are so special and unique. The moods I can create are extraordinary – from frightening to sorrowful; lonely to chaotic; melancholy to high spirited the range possibilities are never ending”.
As a composer for film and television, Evelyn is always searching for innovative ways to express emotion and tell stories through sound. Evelyn’s use of the waterphone demonstrates its broad sound spectrum and ability to instantly evoke a feeling; from the ethereal sounds on “Harmonix” to the chilling “Creeper”.“I can manipulate the instrument by using other “tools” with it such as placing it on top of a timpani or by using sleigh bells, rattles, whistles on and around the Waterphone to create sound extensions from the instrument. By putting a little water into the base of the instrument I can create extraordinary effects - even I don’t know what may happen! The sound palette is truly incredible!” Evelyn explains.
Evelyn has been a composer for Audio Network for ten years. As a composer for Audio Network, Evelyn says, “I have always had the freedom to express myself as a percussionist, musician and sound creator”.
I hope you enjoy this article and if you have any thoughts about other interesting and unusual percussion instruments please let me know.