Mark Batty Publisher has released Toy Instruments, an in-depth look at musical toys from around the world made between the 1950s and today.
With an intro from the author and a foreword from world-renown experimental electronic and hip-hop musician Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, the book collects the toy instruments you may remember from your past, and the wacky ones you’ll find hard to believe ever existed.
Says author Eric Schneider: “Adorned with bizarre color schemes, always-happy families and boys and girls immune to gender disharmony, the toys and the packaging create a Shangri-La sheen, albeit one that is out of tune.”
Toy Instruments retails for $19.95.
Divided into chapters like “Kling Kong,” “Hamburgers, Lemons & Vampires” and “Headache Included,” Toy Instruments represents the crossroads of educational and wacky. From the Skateboard Organ of 1990 – a small skateboard-shaped keyboard from Hong Kong – the Transformers Electronic Voice Synthesizer from ’86, to the tiny hand-held karaoke boom-boxes like Bandai’s Candies Maiku, or even the Body Rap – a beatbox machine you strap on to your limbs – these contraptions range from weird to utterly mystifying.
Citing the 16th century origins of “Chutes and Ladders” and Philip K. Dick, DJ Spooky’s foreword connects these toys to our contemporary gamer culture, concluding that, “Eric Schneider has compiled a kind of ‘object’ time machine, reaching back to the heart of what electronic music represented when it was new.”
“Electronic musical toys are the expression of our deepest dreams; they activate your personal creativity,” says Schneider. “The sound is often horrible but always impressive. They offer strange learning concepts and surfaces with lots of knobs and sliders. They are pure fun, even when it is just for a minute.”