What’s the sound of ten Stylophones buzzing?
Truly awful — deliciously so.
Answering the question on everyone’s mind, “how could we form a band using nothing but Stylophones, and what timbres would result?”, the Los Angeles-based troupe LA Stylophonic here plays original music for the stylus-controlled electronic instrument. Adding that many Stylophones together produces a sound that can best be described as … well, unique, certainly. Composer Paul Fraser does actually give them some musical meat into which the ensemble can sink their teeth, with a minimal music-inflected, rhythmic composition that lets that buzzy, edgy sound fly. I love it.
If you think this group is alone, though, you’re sorely mistaken. Stylophone seems to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts, as tracked by the superb:
Synth legend Vince Clarke bought a new stylophone for his tour. Celeb Mark Ronson jams on one on a national British talk show. Electronics lovers are building their own, using Arduino and kits. There’s a boutique retailer online that caters to those who believe only the original Rolf Harris model has the authentic sound. (An admirable philosophy, if a bit akin to searching out only high-end kazoos.) And a relaunched model is regularly out of stock, thanks to surging popularity. Not bad for an electronic instrument invented before humans traveled out of Earth’s orbit.
What I do enjoy about the hipster (nerdster?) troupe wielding their Stylophones above is that there’s some compositional intent – ultimately, that’s what lets any instrument shine. Thanks, Paul! (Directed by Nick Flessa – a moving portrait, indeed.)
And with all due respect to the late, great Steve Jobs, maybe it isn’t true that “if you see a stylus, they blew it.”