Two Percussionists, Five Suitcases, and Plenty of Found Sound

Craft & Design Music
Two Percussionists, Five Suitcases, and Plenty of Found Sound

eric farber BeV.-BigTop

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist and musician Eric Farber has been making innovative music for the past 15 years. His vast collection of handmade found-object percussion instruments are as intriguing to look at as they are to hear. Base objects range from a late-Victorian Singer sewing machine treadle to turn-of-the-century lamps and sconces. With Faber’s unique vision, these all transform into percussion instruments.

We’re excited to check out an array of Faber’s instruments in person at World Maker Faire New York this weekend, September 21 and 22 at the New York Hall of Science. Here are an assortment of Faber’s instruments to give you an idea of their flavor. The first five are part of his newest project, titled Batterie-en-Valise, and the rest are part of his ongoing Kinetic Ontology series.

The Xylotrunk
eric faber xylotrunk

A “marimba” built with 10 different species of wood – showcasing the beauty and melodic versatility of exotic hardwoods – cut to three variations in length: 9″,12″, & 24″. These are mounted on five independently moving assemblies which fold securely inside of a Reconstruction-era tin paneled trunk.

The Tractor Seat Suitcase
eric faber tractor seat suit case

The handle from a hand-cranked meat grinder plays a melody as it traverses the rungs of an old tractor seat, mounted to the opened lid of an early Abercrombie & Fitch leather-trim suitcase, other percussive goodies are mounted inside, including a creamery bucket and a set of World War II ammo casings.

The Suitcase Drumset
eric faber Suitcase-Drumset

This mid-century fiberboard case with custom-welded support frame, kick pedal attachment, and a set of telescoping legs, forms the base for a network of dangling curiosities, including a brass beer tap and several sets of film reels.

The Red Oak Suitcase
eric farber red oak suitcase

A collection of found pre-war industrial and domestic objects, nestled inside this gutted-out 70′s clamshell wood frame suitcase.

The Snakeskin Samplecase
eric farber snakeskin samplecase

An assortment of copper-alloy bases from turn-of-the-century lamps and sconces are carefully mounted so they remain resonant, and are arranged to play cherubic melodies in a unique musical scale.

Here Faber performs the Batterie-en-Valise, accompanied by Dylan Thurston:

YouTube player

The Hourglass
eric faber hourglass

A discarded laboratory-style stair was cut into an hourglass shape, and four metal pluckers were strategically aligned along a section of chain drive to create a cacophonous arpeggio melody upon activation.

The Music Box
eric faber music box

Most likely from an old textile mill, this rusty hand-powered flywheel and belt wheel are joined by an axle with assorted metal teeth; metal strips of specific thicknesses were selected for the teeth to manipulate as they pass, playing a waltz-like percussive melody.

eric faber pennsylvania

The horizontal rungs of a well patinaed tractor grille get rhythmically plucked as a hand-cranked mechanism from an old dough mixer coaxes a large sawtooth gear to convert circular motion into linear motion.

The Singer
eric faber the_singer

An obsolete but beautiful late-Victorian Singer sewing machine treadle provides the power to spin two 1930’s film reels against one another, creating a cyclical grinding rhythm.

The Walking Legs
eric faber The-Walking-Legs-Small

A pair of found industrial “legs” bend at the knee as their feet traverse the circumference of a small wheel, chain-driven by the operation of a beautiful 24″ gothic revival flywheel.

Here is Farber demonstrating the Kinetic Ontology series instruments:

YouTube player

All images by Dani Leventhal.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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