Disquiet Junto Project 0385: Audubonus Instrumentum

Disquiet Junto Project 0385: Audubonus Instrumentum
The Assignment: Imagine a fake instrument, and make music with it.

Step 1: Imagine an instrument that doesn’t exist.

Step 2: Develop documentation (description, back story, perhaps even a sketch) of the instrument.

Step 3: Record a piece of music that supposedly employs this instrument. Bonus points if the piece of music is an étude.

Background: The inspiration for this project is the naturalist and illustrator John James Audubon (1785-1851), who it has been discovered created upwards of 30 nonexistent animals and included representations of them amid his celebrated drawings of real species.

Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0385” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0385” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:


Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, May 20, 2019, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted in the afternoon, California time, on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

Length: The length is up to you. Shorter is often better.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0385” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: Consider setting your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 385th weekly Disquiet Junto project — Audubonus Instrumentum / The Assignment: Imagine a fake instrument, and make music with it — at:


More on the Disquiet Junto at:


Thanks to Paul Harrington for the Latin assistance.

Subscribe to project announcements here:


Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:


There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

John James Audubon image associated with this project adapted (cropped, colors changed, text added, cut’n’paste) from a public domain Audubon illustration, courtesy of Wikipedia.


The project is now live.

(Love this idea, Marc)

THE WOBBLING LOCK PICK (1890s-1930s Origin)

The Wobbling Lock Pick, or WLP, as it is commonly indicated on most synthesizers, is one of the oldest known vibrating instruments. Wonderfully primitive in nature, its sound is actually dependent upon its interaction with another rigid piece of metal. This conduit is often referred to as a ‘Lock’ or ‘Key Hole’. Sound is made when the WLP is vibrated within the aperture of a small hole, or slot, found near the handle of a door. The wobble itself is the basis for LFOs and much other synthesized noise.

The WLP itself was first introduced at the World’s Fair in 1893, Chicago. But you likely don’t know this because back then it was foolishly called THE PAPER CLIP. What a silly name. Yes, Samuel B. Fay could have gone down in electronic music history as the creator of the Wobbling Lock Pick! Instead, he misunderstood the nature of his discovery of a bent brass or steel clip, and thought it would be most useful in the world of tidying up officework as a clasp.


The Wobbling Lock Pick was resurrected in 1928 by a young musician and inventor. Raymond Scott was looking for new and interesting noises. One day, looking for these noises, he got locked inside of an office. As desperation began to devour him, he found only two things on the desk: A quarter bag of fresh psychedelic mushrooms, and yes, you guessed it, a single steel wire paperclip!

Addressing his immediate hunger, Scott consumed the mushrooms. “Gad they taste horrible!” and then in forty minutes to around an hour, he exclamed, “I need to get out of here, the room is becoming smaller and full of moths!”

Thus, Scott shoved the paperclip into the key hole. But as he went to escape, his wiggling got more entrancing. “What is that I hear!,” Scott exclaimed. What he heard in the paperclip was something very strange. He heard the future.

Escaping from the room and still hallucinating, Raymond Scott wrote down the schematics for the WLP. He turned a simple paperclip into the basis of electronic music as we now know it!

A patent was quickly issued:

This first recording, posted below, was issued on 78rpm platter in 1930. Though an extensive restoration process has restored it to such fidelity, it sounds like it may have even been recorded tonight! It shows Raymond Scott’s amazing progress with wobbling on metal to break into a home, and continues the story of The Convict from Short Stories, who was initially introduced in Disquiet 0380.

Listen now, to the sound of Raymond Scott and his amazing Wobbling Lock Pick:


What a great idea - and a challenge! Love the two contributions already. Very creative.


The sciù is a double reed aerophone, consisting of a cylindrical tube inside which are placed thin membranes that produce resonant delays. The sciù was built by Amos Soma, the name derives from a Sicilian dessert, a ricotta cheese. As such sweet induces the player and those who listen to States of ecstasy.


About to follow in the footsteps of Virgil and Dante into the depths of the Inferno? Unsure which kind of instrument to take to make quick musical sketches of all the terrors you will experience? Sure, you’ll need something traditional like a mandolin. But you’ll also need a huge reverb-drenched wall of tremolo to tell that trickster Ulysses exactly what an ancient cowboy he was … and still is. Then again, there’s nowhere more exotic than hell - so why not go for something more mystical like a shamisen? The customs gate in limbo will only permit you to carry one instrument through. So, just grab an old mandolin, detune it until it sounds like a shamisen, and play it in the reverberating caverns of the nine circles of hell.

Boom, problem solved. You’ll have all the devils dancing to the tune of your SHAM-I-TREM.

But don’t just don’t take our word for it. You can’t take anyone’s word for it!!

“Sure, it’s a sham, but so are you, dear reader” - Dante

“Getting strings in purgatory was a pain - we had to wait in line for what seemed like centuries” - Virgil

“I fall for any guy who can smack out a tune on a SHAM-I-TREM” - Beatrice

“What is this piece of junk? It just won’t stay in tune!! I’ll take my ukulele every time, thank you very much” - Satan

(DISCLAIMER: the SHAM-I-TREM is highly flammable and loses sustain when drenched in blood or placed in contact with frozen skin. Your mileage absolutely will not vary.)


Found floating amongst the stars, initially though to be an alien satellite, a yalpian blackstone organ was found in 1972 by Major Tom & Eva.

After several years of experiments, Professor Spleet Von Gingle finally succeeded in taping a few minutes of it’s song, after which (she claims) it broke completely.

Rumour has it, though, that pieces and parts as well as some of the oscillating blackstones has been seen on stage or in the studios of some of the biggest bands throughout the '70’ies and '80’ies.


I really enjoyed this one and wanted to take a moment to thank the disquiet community as I graduate tomorrow with a Masters Science in Recording Arts, your support, feedback and collaboration has helped me keep going. Thank you Marc for providing “the shed”

Gear: Roland DJ 808, ROLI Block, ROLI Seaboard, Ipad with ROLI Noise App, SM7B
ROLI Noise I pad thru Channel 3 on Roland DJ 808
BLOCK via bluetooh
SM7B into Mic with pitch up on vocoder on the Roland DJ 808

I utilized a 3,5,8,11,13,16 pattern on the Roland 808, 909; for the 707 3, 8, 11, 13, 16; for the 606 3, 8, 13, 16
I then recorded a tambourine with magnets attached to it, ASMR triggers
a bowl of water with magnets in it while using a squeezee pig blowing into the bowl, filling up with water, snout up with water. I then looped these with compression and some EQ’s I created for Sweeps and ducks In addition I added some tongue clicks, lip bubbles. Building an instrument rack in Abelton with Wavetable and Operator to include an in the box instrument combination.


Congratulations on your graduation! That’s awesome!


I expected lotsa space future sounds, so I went back in time. I imagined Harry Partch’s creations, fucked up an old Regal parlor guitar, and then ran it backward. In my mind, it’s an etude intended to be played in reverse.

Prepared guitar. Alligator clip, twist tie, etc. recorded on the tiny mic of a phone then minimally edited in logic.


This is my favorite project I’ve been a part of in disquiet. I really love the idea. I also had a great time reading up on the Audubon incident. Bizarrely, incidentally, incredibly, I think a lot of you folks in the community are already working with “self-created instruments” or “imaginary musical tools” because I see a lot of you blending various technologies and using programming, mathematics and science to build something out of nothing. That is immensely inspiring to me. Some old guy said there was nothing new under the sun, but today it feels to me like everything is new, every day, it’s all familiar but slightly different. There’s something special there. Dig in. I can’t wait to see what all of you create.


This is the only known recording of Mrs Ethel Cartwright performing on what the unknown recordist dubbed the “Ethelphone” in their notes. Said notes describe the Ethelphone as being “an unholy collection of fragments of household cleaning implements played by Mrs Cartwright with far more enthusiasm than skill through an ancient reel to reel tape recorder powered by a car battery”

Cartwright and her husband Sidney lived almost all of their lives on an isolated farm that only had the most basic amenities. Mrs Cartwright however had a passion for music that apparently remained a source of friction between the couple for a lot of their married lives. She had a collection of very poor quality tapes recorded with a microphone from a battery powered radio. When visited by the recordist who made this tape she expressed an enthusiasm for a show presented by “Mister John Peel”. Her husband seemed irritated by this and had to be persuaded to go and do some work on the farm by the recordist so that his muttering and grumbling didn’t spoil the recording.

A couple of years after this recording life on the farm came to a tragic end. Mrs Cartwright turned up at a neighbouring farm disheveled and distressed. She said only “call police. Tell ‘em to go to the farm”. She accepted a cup of tea from her Neighbour but wouldn’t say anything more. Something she continued through the subsequent trial and her imprisonment. Life in prison didn’t suit Mrs Cartwright and she passed away in her sleep a few short months into sentence.


Major congratulations. I’m glad the Junto wasn’t too much of a distraction during your studies.

1 Like

Classic all round. Really enjoyed this.


The playlist is now rolling:

So good! I hope somebody makes a documentary about Ethelphone sessions.


Harry Partch is best known for inventing acoustic instruments like marimbas and reed organs. But he also collaborated with Erv Wilson on a synthesizer, the Partch Pad, which was designed to play in 43-tone just intonation. I happened to find one at a garage sale. It took a while to get used to the grid-shaped keyboard layout, but having the interval ratios written right on the keys was helpful. I came up with this etude to help me hear the different intervals, some of which are intriguingly close to familiar 12-tone equal temperament, and some of which are fascinatingly “wrong.” (Or I just made this with Audiokit Synth One on my phone.)


Congratulations! And great piece too!


+10 HP for the Partch use and reference, Ethan!


The Bremmenmusikkasten has been outlawed across most of the world (for obvious reasons), but a few examples of this live musical box of birds and a cat can still be found in museums.
Here is a brief recording made for Canada’s Hinterland Who’s Who program in the 1960s before the instrument was banned.