First, a short story about
“How WOOD Makes Music!™ Came to Be”
(by J’miah Nabawi)
WOOD Makes Music!™ began (and developed) as a playful response to the Franklin Institute Science Museum’s (Philadelphia, PA) open call to area performing artists to audition to be part of a national exhibit that was on tour and coming to the Franklin Institute. “What Makes Music?” was the exhibit and the auditioning artists were challenged to present/perform the proposal they would offer to the public as an interactive presentation for the touring “What Makes Music?” exhibit. Forming a frame-like base to lay some wood across them as keys of a xylophone (marimba) are, I put a few boards across the improvised wooden frame and struck them with two sticks (mallots). All you could hear was just “click-a-dee click-click-click,” the sound of wood hitting wood. There was nothing musical about it. The moment I took those same pieces of wood and frame underneath, added some rubber strips between the boards on top of the bare frame and the frame itself, and struck them, the previously flat click-click-click stick on wood sounds turned into a harmonizing, musical bing-ding-ding-bong-bong! They almost jumped out of their seats from the surprise! Some of the judges even jerked back in their seats smiling and looking surprised when those harmonic tones came ringing out of those oddly cut, unadorned mix-matched pieces of wood that included some of those old-fashioned reddish-brown “bed slats” and seemingly from nowhere. That got quite a laugh. (I still crack a smile every time I think back on that day.) Along with some of the other artists, WOOD Makes Music!™ got the call back and a residency contract to present at the museum for a six-week long museum exhibit. It was really as awesome artist residency and WOOD Makes Music!™ was now on the map, so to speak. I was later commissioned to construct and build. And that’s how WOOD Makes Music!™ came about. WOOD Makes Music!™ was eventually recognized and cited with a Proclamation by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives during an artist residency at the Blue Mountain School District’s cluster of schools later that year.
In 2001, it became part of the Leonard Bernstein Artful Learning™ methodology of “Experience, Inquire, Create, Reflect” initiative through a U.S. Department of Education grant in partnership with Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, GA) and the Grammy® Foundation. (Note: Artful Learning™ allows teachers and teaching artists to skillfully blend core academic subjects like science and math with character education and the arts [art integration] in a seamless transition.)
A segment of WOOD Makes Music!™ is now part of the national “Geek the Library” campaign in support of our local libraries across the nation and can be seen in the “Get Your Geek On” series of videos. WOOD Makes Music!™ is currently available for touring schools, community festivals and children’s museums.
“I got my Geek On doing more research on the sonorous properties of wood and how marimbas are used for different festivities in different parts of the world. Go ahead, “Get Your Geek On” making visits to the public library and support your local libraries!” ~ J’miah Nabawi
Here’s an example of WOOD Makes Music!™ marimba keys going from plain wood (store-bought or recycled lumber, we encourage recycling) to colorful, thematic designs done with markers and crayons by summer camp participants at the Lutheran Church of the Ascension’s (Savannah, GA) for their 2014 Music Week.
(All bare feet and wood on deck!)
This plain pile of wood went from this . . .
And we’re done! The bare pile of wood is now transformed into a colorful, musical marimba! These colorfully designed pieces of musical marimba keys were first drawn on paper and then onto the wood and painted or colored in with water markers and crayons by the children and camp directors.
Extended into an artist residency, WOOD Makes Music!™ becomes an engaging, fun INSTILLATION ART PROJECT where participants design and construct an oversized marimba that is left with the school and out on display. The marimba will also be tuned and usable for any future school musical activities as well.
WOOD Makes Music!™ at the Coastal Georgia YMCA’s Pryme Tyme
after-school program, Gould Elementary, Garden City, GA