Handmade Music: Folk Instruments & Internet DIY Culture

In April I will be presenting at the University of Newcastle’s School of Creative Art’s Research Symposium. It runs from April 7th-9th at the City Precinct Campus. I’ve decided to talk on tactility and the information sharing of online forums that inform DIY instrument making.

In the past I have given a few projects a go, including a cookie tin Banjo (definitely playable- but not so timbral-ly friendly at the higher end of the neck!)…


Abstract for the presentation below:

‘Digital’ may not be the first word that comes to mind at the mention of folk music. Folk instruments are predominantly acoustic and often handmade. Crafted from wood, metal, bone and other materials, these instruments represent landscapes and act as an extension of the player’s body. Despite widespread integration of the Internet and other facets of digital technology in everyday lives, there is a reluctance in pop culture to sway from the notion of folk music as acoustic and face-to-face. Notwithstanding these assumptions many musicians are making interests of folk music and the Internet attuned. In social media, folk music is linked in hashtag folksonomies to independent and DIY music. This paper investigates examples of such links in online music DIY tutorials and forums that marry the tactility of folk instruments with online knowledge sharing. This, at least in thought, returns ‘digital’ to its etymological origins (relating to your digits) assuming a hands-on process of understanding and curation by musicians and makers.
The eclectic, broad and self-generated vocabulary and approaches we commonly use online to categorise, organise and understand open great possibilities to see folk music and musical genres at large anew: emergent, diverse and personalised.

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