Casting Gongs and Metallophones: Shaping the Sound of Bronze (Fall Only - Living Arts Section)
Faculty: Steven Ball (Music, Theatre and Dance), Paul Kominsky (Technical Communication), Louis Marinaro (Art & Design), and Greg Wakefield (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
Project: Student teams will design, build, and test a bronze gamelan instrument.
Will it ring? This course demonstrates the roles that shape and material structure play in determining the acoustic properties of objects through the hands-on making of bronze instruments of gamelan ensembles. Working within the framework of design-build-test, students will apply mathematical models of resonant structures to design, cast, measure and refine the tonal properties of bronze instruments. Student teams will learn the necessary concepts and techniques by drawing from three educational traditions (Engineering, Art, and Music). Each student will learn how to create a gong or metallophone from a two-dimensional drawing through the process of molding in plaster, modeling in clay and casting in bronze. Students will be instructed in a variety of processes including wave propagation, computer simulations, sound analysis and synthesis, drawing, wood construction, plaster forming, plaster mold making, wax casting, bronze casting and fine-tuning the instrument. They will receive hands-on training in the use of all equipment needed to fabricate the bronze instruments found in gamelan ensembles from the point of conception to the moment each is struck. They will have access to explore, record, and analyze the sounds of the University of Michigan’s world-famous gamelan ensemble, and will have the opportunity to consult and play with faculty and students who perform in this ensemble. The end of the semester will feature a demonstration performance by the class of the instruments they have created. Please note that teams will be required to meet outside of the regularly scheduled 6 contact hours to handle the more time-intensive phases of the fabrication process.