Junto Project 0385: Audubonus Instrumentum [repost]

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

The corvus sonic bowl is a type of musical instrument that uses a wide copper or crystallophone rim to produce musical tones by means of friction and velocity. The first models were produced in Finland, where one is most likely to hear and see the instrument in action.

The actual word has no lexical meaning in Finnish, and in Finno-Ugric language the instrument is often called a korppi meaning “raven.” It is unknown what ornithological significance this holds, but we know that the name comes from the Latin corvus vis Swedish korpen, both derived from the Indo-European root ker, “to cry out.” Mysteries abound.

The corvus (as it’s typically called) can be played two ways: by rubbing the edge of the rim with a moistened rubber ball, or by flicking various parts of the body framework with your finger. The emitted sound may be highly percussive, like hitting a clay pot, or it can resemble the angelic tunes produced by a glass harmonica.

Since the corvus was (and is) an expensive instrument to produce, recorded artifacts are exceedingly rare. Suss Müsik is fortunate to own several albums in which the corvus makes an appearance.

The Scottish progressive rock band Aloysius Colourboxx featured the instrument on their 1972 triple-album opus Trade Language, and US flower-pop outfit The Third Fifth Forth was known to break out a corvus throughout their two-week existence in the autumn of 1967.

Suss Müsik’s personal favorite corvus tunes are “Sifting the Soft” by funk-jazz great Bootsie Sidewinder, and an obscure 1977 B-side from punk band Screaming at the Mirror titled “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree (Unless I Throw It At You).”

Highly skilled corvus players can emit a wide variety of sounds in a single session. Suss Müsik isn’t that skilled at anything, really, so we cheated by multi-tracking the recording for this week’s Junto. Unfortunately the rim cracked during our session before completely shattering to pieces, so that’s it for Suss Müsik’s corvus phase. Sorry.

The piece is titled Corvus. The image is a primitive sketch of the instrument drawn purely from memory.

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