A lesson in Panpipe making…

Last month, the London Sinfonietta performed as part of Glasgow’s Minimal Extreme festival.  One of the works, Louis Andriessen’s Hoketus called for some rather unusual panpipes. Eliza Marshall explains…

On receiving a copy of the panpipe parts for Louis Andriessen’s Hoketus, it was quite apparent that we would need to customise our pipes to suit the desired pitches. Whilst both Dave Cuthbert and I play on Romanian-made pipes, they were not specific enough for what we needed.

Eliza's panpipe making kit

Buying other makes would have been expensive, and we would have had to break them up to add/take away notes that we needed/didn’t need. The geography of the notes when playing the panpipes is very important, so having any unwanted notes in the way was unhelpful for a fast moving piece like Hoketus.

We decided that the best optionwas to make our own.

3 metres of black conduit tubing, a tube cutting instrument,  some champagne corks and several hours later we had the exact notes required! David worked out rough measurements for each pitch, and cut the tubing accordingly

Panpipe making in progress

This was reasonably quick. Cutting the cork so that it was the right size was a little more time consuming, but very important to fully block the end of the tube, whilst also being movable so as to allow for tuning the pipes. Then some strong carpet tape and we were ready to go!

Our first rehearsal with Bang On A Can and the guys seemed quite impressed with our home creations. Mark Stewart commented on the fact that he has many instruments that he makes for different occasions and Louis Andriessen also seemed very happy with the instruments.

Eliza, with the finished panpipes

Hoketus is a great piece to play on panpipes, and I will now be adding my black tube creations to my ever-growing bag of ethnic flutes and random instruments.

Eliza Marshall, Panpipe player

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