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Spring Board by Eric Leonardson
[ · Download from mirror (WMV | 17.2MB) ] 30.03.2010, 23:08


Live at The Tank, Manhattan Jack Wright (saxophone), Andrew Drury (percussion), Anna Friz (accordian, harmonica, electronics), Eric Leonardson (springboard). Recorded live by free103point9 on Thursday, May 31, 2007. Duration 16:42


Aside from an interest in the sonic potential of coil springs, I began with no preconceived idea of how the Springboard should sound or look. Initially, I did not aim to make a musical instrument. I knew springs had been used in early artificial reverb effects, and I was simply intrigued by the sounds of retracting springs for screen doors and garage doors, and I was intent on using readily available materials.

piezo contact mic in underside of SpringboardWhat developed is a device that amplifies a variety common objects and materials. The Springboard not only generates a wide range of "strange sounds," it has become an extremely flexible and unique instrument. The following text and photos describe the Springboard’s construction and its various sounds.

attaching wood to boardAttached across the top of an aluminum walker is a 2" x 6" board. A single piezo disk contact microphone is mounted inside a small cavity in the underside of board. By extension, the high sensivity of the piezo pickup enables the entire board amplify anything attached, hence it is transformed into a receiving surface for amplification of any number of vibrating objects I choose. Among them:

  • coil springs of various sizes
  • combs
  • tuned wood slats (ala Hans Reichel’s Daxophone)
  • small metal grill
  • large rubber bands

... all of which are bowed, plucked, rubbed or struck with brushes, chopsticks, friction mallets, or my bare fingers. With higher amplification the entire instrument is sensitive enough to pick up sounds of the room itself. I also amplify objects placed directly on it, such as a music box mechanism, large rubber bands, a vibrating massager, and a small piezo disk speaker connected to the earphone jack of a pocket radio.

eye bolts and coil springsThe sound that coil springs make have a lot of inharmonic content. In other words, instead of a single clearly pitched tone it produces a group or agglomeration of pitches that are not harmonically related, such as a bell. (To some listeners it is a "cold" or "haunting" tone. At times the tone may even suggest an unpleasant "industrial" sound. Of course, these interpretaions are subjective.)

Several coil springs are used on the Springbaord. I have one spring attached to each leg of the walker with the other end of each coil spring attached to different points on the board. Usually I bow the springs, as well as the wooden slats. If you haven’t heard Hans Reichel’s daxophone performances or recordings you might associate the sounds of the wooden slats with murmuring, whining, cajoling, snoring, and growling voices or animal sounds. They can be comic and disturbing. I bend the pitch of my crude daxophones by applying pressure with my non-bowing hand. The results work well with saxophone players and the extended vocal techniques of Carol Genetti, a frequent collaborator of mine.

My techniques for playing the Springboard continue to develop through practice. As a drummer I have learned how to become sensitive to material response of the Springboard. I seldom ever hit any parts of the instrument as one hits a drum. Instead, bows, brushes, friction mallets, chopsticks, my bare hands and fingers apply controlled pressure, flexion, and friction to produce its most intriguing sounds. As I mentioned, I prefer using a cello bow on coil springs rather than a plucking or striking them. As with a stringed instrument, bowing produces a harmonically richer tone than plucking a string. The same applies for bowed coil springs.

With large rubber bands stretched around the eyebolts and grill, I make sounds that are identical in range and timbre to an acoustic bass. I pluck them or use chopsticks to drum on them.

overhead view

In 1999 I began using an Oberheim Echoplex Digital Pro to sample, loop, and overdub sounds in real-time for my performances, both solo and with the Plasticene theater company. However, in free improvised ensemble performances I prefer to use the Springboard without the Echoplex. In these situations the musical flow will shift, halt, or reverse directions faster than I can respond to them with the Echoplex .

Eric playing Springboard at CIF 2006

A key inspiration for making my own instruments came from Hal Rammel, who began teaching instrument invention workshops at the Experimental Sound Studio in 1990. I had also seen and heard Nicolas Collins and Elliot Sharp perform on invented instruments of varying complexity, in concerts co-sponsored by ESS and Randolph Street Gallery in the late-80s. And prior to that I attended percussion recitals as an art student at Northern Illinois University, where it wasn't unusual to see musicians playing hubcaps, bowls, and other everyday non-musical items.


Prior the invention of the Springboard I had been using drums, an analog synthesizer, a 4-track cassette recorder, reel-to-reel tapes, prepared bass guitar, MIDI controlled samplers, drum machine, computer sequencing, turntables, and environmental (or concrete) sounds as my instruments and/or materials. In the studio I would connect these devices in somewhat complex routing schemes to create recorded pieces. In that environment I was able to use my studio as an instrument itself. I still use some of these devices and techniques in my performances and studio compositions.


Category: Experimental Instruments | Added by: cordell666| | Tags: Jack Wright, Andrew Drury, Anna Friz, Spring Board, Eric Leonardson |
Views: 4597 | Downloads: 121 | Comments: 1 | Rating: 5.0/40
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