PVC Instruments by Arnie Schoenberg



Drums in the Desert, Burning Man '98

Why make drums out of P.V.C.?

Being a drummer can be different than playing most instruments because you don't just play one instrument, you set up several, and have to learn and appreciate the qualities of each. I love getting to know the personality of new drums, and playing drums that have never existed before is exciting. Sometimes I'll hit the shell to see what high tones it might have, or a sing a glissando to where the tube echoes back my own voice, and even though I shouldn't, I always end up trying out the drum when the skin is still wet, imaging what the sound is going to be like. And the anticipation of waiting for the head to dry is agonizing, especially with a thick head that could take three days to dry completely. All these things make dealing with dead animal skins worthwhile.

I leave the drums unfinished mainly out of laziness, and partly from indecisiveness. I rationalize leaving them undecorated by telling myself that whoever ends up with the drum will decorate it however they want to, or that it's a legitimate constructivist aesthetic, or by telling myself "If they sound good, they're done!"

If I lived near a forest, I might go cut down a tree, but I've lived all my life in expanding cities, so I go to construction sites and ask for scrap PVC.

I don't like the drums because they are heavy, and the plastic gives them overtones which reminds me of these big rubber balls we used in elementary school to play four-square with.

I like the drums, because they have unique sounds; they don't sound like mass-produced hand drums. I think it's neat making music out sewer pipes. The drum shells are also indestructible: you could play them at the bottom of the ocean or on the moon, or set them on top of a termite hill, or leave them in the sun for decades, or let kids play with them, etc. I make them carefully, because I know plastics are very difficult to recycle, and these drums will be around long after I will.

Plastic Sound

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