What do musicians do in a fablab? BrutPop, which is pursuing its mission to create accessible, inexpensive musical instruments for mentally disabled people, dropped by Fablab Drôme in Crest, France.
Crest (Drôme), special report
No need to be a musician to appreciate the offbeat nature of the series of guitars hanging on the wall as you enter Fablab Drôme (a.k.a “8”) in Crest. With their single metal strings and wooden plank bodies, the guitars recall the DIY instrumentarium of Congolese band Konono N°1, even if they have evolved with a singular purpose.
From the very first prototype to the final version (with the best defined structure and visibly the most robust), we can see each stage of production of this intriging project by musical duo Antoine Capet and David Lemoine at 8. Their purpose was to design a series of accessible, inexpensive instruments for mentally disabled amateur musicians.
BrutPop at the Freakshow
A few months ago, at the nearby Freakshow rock festival, Capet and Lemoine (also singer of the band Cheveu), along with the band Family Percus, presented a musical ensemble of five autistic and mentally disabled young people, reconstituting a musical composition workshop they had previously led as BrutPop.
“We wanted to do a musical project with disabled people around an outsider art theme,” says Stéphane Collin of Gigors Electric, the organizer of Freakshow. “As Cheveu came to play at our festival [in 2014], we talked to David, because he was working with Antoine Capet on a project called Atelier Méditerranée with young autistic people. In parallel, we discovered a group of local musicians who were all young disabled people living at APAJH (association for adults and young disabled) in Crest, called Family Percus. So everything was set to launch a musical project for Freakshow 2015.”
Little by little, the project took shape. But one there was just one problem: Where to find instruments that were cheap and easy enough to use by disabled musicians?
“Antoine Capet came and told us about BrutBox, a modular instrument designed at the fablab in Marseille,” Collin continues. “He wanted to develop new instruments that could be played by people with motor coordination problems, and inexpensive, so as to distribute them easily. We saw that the Crest fablab team had the solution.”
Acoustic engineers, electric engineers, designer, hackers…
It wasn’t long before an entire team was assembled at Fablab Drôme by its enthusiastic director Carole Thourigny, with the mission to use BrutPop to create instruments inspired by African handmade guitars and kalimbas: “We needed people with the skills to use our 3D laser-cutter and CNC machine (the famous Shopbot), but also capable of creating instruments that were cheap and accessible products. So we decided to host a workshop, which was attended by acoustic engineers, electric engineers and a designer.” Other hands also came on board, such as LoAD, the hackerspace in Valence, which converted the Monotron, a toy synthesizer, into the Gronotron, a larger version with bigger knobs that are easier to handle.
“Everyone played along,” beams Thourigny as she shows the first instruments created, several guitars, with one, three and four strings, adaptable microphones, as well as thumb pianos and, of course, the famous Gronotron. “And it’s not over, we’re still now experimenting. We want to open the project to other teams, medical groups, organizations, and other fablabs. We plan to distribute all the fabrication plans in open source. This way, anyone can go to their own fablab with a 50-euro plank of wood.”
The work-in-progress is bound to continue its journey, as in December BrutPop will talk about the project in a round table during their carte blanche at La Gaîté Lyrique. The musical duo will also invite anyone who’s game to record their own piece, with a selection of these instruments, in a specially dedicated mobile studio—for all you lovers of experimental music labs!
BrutPop carte blanche at La Gaîté Lyrique, December 10-13