Feb 4 2019

Veering off into left field – to build a marimbula

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This is a long way from xylophones and propane-tank drums, but I’ve really enjoyed building cajóns and – for the first time – a marimbula.

Quick demo and walkaround

The marimbula is a Caribbean instrument, descended from the African kalimba, and generally functions as a bass. As you’ll see in the video at the bottom of the post, I first experimented with a 6-key marimbula built onto the back of one of my cajons, just to figure out the basics of construction.

This one is a 16-key marimbula – which I’ve decided has about three too many bottom-end keys and perhaps one too many high-end keys, as the sound quality falls off quite a bit at the ends of its scale. Next, I might try building one like a piano keyboard (with two layers of keys in white and black) centered in the middle of this scale.

The tuning has been kinda challenging – I finally settled on D – but I’m tuning it slowly by ear because the digital tuning apps can’t handle all the overtones it puts out. Anyway, it’s a helluva lot of fun to play – particularly on a nice, resonant wood floor – because it’s easy to play, and the notes send vibrations through your butt and up your spine. I take great satisfaction in building instruments that create physical joy along with pleasant music.



Jan 25 2015

Video: XyloVan at Burning Man 2014

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A little sampler of the hundreds of people who played XyloVan at Burning Man, 2014.


Oct 15 2012

XyloVan walkaround – L.A. Decom 2012

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Oct 15 2012

XyloVan in full voice – L.A. Decom 2012

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Be warned – it’s LOUD. And that makes us happy.


Oct 15 2012

Drumming on XyloVan at L.A. Decom 2012

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Oct 15 2012

Contemplative jam at L.A. Decom 2012

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Sep 11 2012

Burning Man 2012: Burn Wall Street – and torch that Egyptian god while you’re at it

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At some point – say, doctor next year – we’ll probably quit aiming a camera at the same damn spectacle that everyone else is videoing and actually absorb a burn face to face with open soul, information pills unfiltered by a 2-inch screen.

Until then, we’re happy to share these videos of Burn Wall Street and the Anubis burn:

Word from a friend in the Rangers was that the Anubis pyro show originally belonged to Burn Wall Street – but that the Burning Man Organization (BMORG or, simply, the Borg) reaappropriated it because of unspecified unreadiness on the part of the BWS crew.

It was a fine show:


Sep 11 2012

Contemplative Laura

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Laura – a multiinstrumentalist who dropped by to discuss XyloVan mallet technology found a mood:


Sep 11 2012

Thursday night jam

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Mikaal, store Hunter and a friend get into a groove in Swing City:


Apr 17 2012

Rocking the mallets at Lucidity Festival 2012

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Everyone brings something glowing and unique to XyloVan.

Little kids, patient drunks and professional percussionists hammer at the keys in a zillion different ways. People play “Chopsticks” or “Star Wars” or “Mario Bros.” or “Claire du Lune.” They goof, explore and jam.

Their music is as diverse as their faces and lives.

But the beauty of the thing is that once they start to play – without fail – every single XyloVan-ist goes to the exact same place: a moment of personal stillness and concentration where they are completely focused on the sound their hands are making, the vibrations in time and space that make up their personal experience at that very moment.

It’s a place of utter clarity, fluidity and dynamic tension. And it is invariably beautiful and humbling for us to watch.

So – these are the videos from Lucidity Festival. If you spot yourself playing anywhere in these videos, please say hi in comments below, tell us where you came from, what kind of music you play in the “real” world, and why music is important to you.

And from the bottom of our grubby hearts, thanks to everyone who played. You are inspiring, powerful and generous with your energy. We’re really glad to have met you all and we’ll see you again very soon.