World music students use ingenuity to craft unique instruments

MARQUETTE — “This is a world music class, so we’ve been studying lots of different instruments, lots of different ways of creating music, as well as creating instruments themselves,” said Joel Simmons, a student in Carrie Biolo’s World Music class at NMU.

Other students, like Simmons, have been hard at work putting together hand-made instruments the past few weeks.

They displayed the fruits of their labor to classmates Wednesday morning, explaining what they’d made and how they’d made it and offering small demonstrations. The instruments ranged from the simple, crafted from items found lying about the house, to the complex, involving a healthy amount of elbow grease.

“I created a pan flute; a pan whistle,” Simmons said, playing a couple of notes. “The holes are very large, which would make it hard to play a melody without a lot of practice. The bottoms are capped; it helps create a lot of the sound. What that means is you can actually fill it with a liquid. Change the volume and it actually changes the sound.”

In the weeks leading up to presenting their creations the students were shown examples of world music instruments to give them ideas.

“The class has been experiential as well,” Simmons said. “We’ve listened to a lot of different world music, so I was trying to create something that was more natural to me, as well.”

Many of the instruments were percussive, designed to be struck or shook, and one student even made his own didgeridoo.