Meet Edward Burke, Generator’s January/February 2017 Maker-in-Residence. It’s not hard to spot him whittling his stumpf fiddles in his studio at Generator.
I have always been fascinated with the idea of building and playing my own instruments – instruments that were portable, easy to learn and play, and ones which would let me make a variety of interesting sounds, while making me stand out in a crowd with unique looks; instruments that elicit the question of “What IS that thing, man”? or “What do you call that”?
With the power of YouTube and his bedroom as a studio, he started crafting his own DIY stumpf fiddles. Stumpf fiddles and similar instrument go by different names like the lagerphones, which are played in Australia, stumpf fiddles, which are played in Germany, and ugly sticks, played in Newfoundland, Canada. If you see a kind of walking stick with a rubber ball at the bottom and a bell, horn, woodblock, springs and a tin pan drum — that’s a stumpf fiddle! In order for Edward to make his own, he had to collect odds and ends like old broom handles, screen door spring, antique pie plates, bike bell, bike horn, wood block, bottle caps, etc. Upcycle to the extreme!
I had no blueprints; only the videos I saw from YouTube to go on. It was rough, and primitive, and my first attempt was not put together well, but then a visit to my Dad in the summer of 2016 gave me the necessary “oomph” I needed to finish the instrument. His help and suggestions proved invaluable to me, and sparked my curiosity and enthusiasm for wanting to build more instruments, and hone my woodworking/simple hardware skills. My Dad’s help was similar to the kind of personable suggestions, constructive criticism, and technical advice you get from volunteers and staff members here at the Generator.
Through the residency, Edward seeks to make great strides in his craft of making unique sounds. These instruments are ideal for empowering street artists to share in a truly unique way. Edward came to the opinion after college that the best and most poignant music was made not by a classically-trained musician on the most expensive instrument; it was music which was made on the simplest instruments and sung from the mouths of people who have a variety of stories to tell, be they good, bad, uplifting, or funny, that was always the best, most inspiring music.
Come join Edward in his performance at the next Generator Member meeting on Monday, March 13th at 5:30pm!