Brian Dewan may be a jack-of-all-trades, but he’s clearly a master of many. An inventor and builder, this Catskill, N.Y., resident is also a performance artist, cartoonist, and multi-talented musician.
Dewan plays and sings along with semi-traditional instruments like autoharps, zithers, and accordions, making them seem appropriate for everything from heavy metal to folk songs. He also performs with the cheerfully lunatic Raymond Scott Orchestrette. (Raymond Scott composed the music for numerous Warner Brothers cartoons.)
In collaboration with cousin Leon Dewan, Brian has created a series of instruments called Dewanatrons that vary in complexity from simple, elegant, wall-mounted interactive sound sculptures such as their Melody Gins and Courtesy Modules to the extraordinary Dual Primate Console Mark II, shown here.
It’s impossible to precisely control, so the “primates-in-charge” must guide the machine to produce melodies, percussion, and innumerable unpredictable sound effects. Brian explains, “It is the responsibility of each primate to encourage or restrain the instrument.”
Some simpler pieces are best experienced in unison: a dozen Wall Gins, for instance, were displayed in Brooklyn’s Pierogi Gallery, configured to play simultaneously, creating an eerie and enthralling ambient soundscape.
All the musical instruments are “analog, solid-state” works covered in knobs and dials, full of oscillators and other physical sound manipulation controllers, with beautifully
finished cases that bespeak Brian’s fine furniture-building background. They are artifacts and heirlooms of a Dewan-ized version of the past.
Dewan’s Instruments: dewanatron.com