Music For The Kaurios

This video captures a performance by composer and instrument designer Nathan M. Asman, using the Kaurios.

“Kaurios” is both the title of the piece and the name of the instrument itself, which is named after the wood from which the instrument is made.

Here’s what Asman has to say about it:

“Hailing from northern New Zealand, the wood is an exceptionally rare, unique type called Ancient Kauri. The pieces I used in the making of this instrument were carbon-dated at between 30,000 and 50,000 years old, predating the last Ice Age by more than 20,000 years.

The Kauri forest was felled by completely natural forces (the leading theory is an ancient tsunami), and was then perfectly preserved just below ground level in the water of a peat bog. The bog turned out to be the perfect resting place for these giant trees, sealing the wood from the air and creating the perfect cocoon to prevent the wood from petrifying or turning into coal. Ancient Kauri is the oldest workable wood on the planet, and can only be found in this one location in northern New Zealand.

I happened upon the pieces by complete luck, discovering them at a local wood shop. Turning something so ancient and organic into a brand new data-driven instrument that highlights the technology of the present appealed to me greatly, and I could not be more proud of the finished product.

The instrument consists of two pieces, one for each of my hands. Each piece incorporates an array of 5 momentary metal push-buttons with RGB LED lights, a joystick, a touch-fader (soft-potentiometer), and a 9-degrees-of-freedom motion sensor, with an added laser-based distance sensor in the right-hand piece. The pieces are both completely wireless, utilizing the Bluetooth Low Energy MIDI data communication protocol, allowing for seamless integration with any MIDI-compatible DAW or device.

This piece explores and transforms the original sounds of my shruti box into a new sonic tapestry while simultaneously developing the newly emerging performance practice that accompanies the invention of a new instrument.

Both the instrument and musical composition represent the culmination of my studies at the University of Oregon as a student of music technology, composition, digital art, and data-driven instrument performance and design.”

9 thoughts on “Music For The Kaurios

  1. I enjoyed the music and the parts of the video that I watched were interesting with the manipulation of the instruments creating a dance-like ritual impression.

  2. I have mixed feelings. If I had a couple pieces of 40,000 year old wood, I don’t know that I’d be able to come up with a thing to make that was worthy of that treasure.

    On one hand, this instrument could have been made with any (not-so) old wood, or any material, actually. And I don’t think the wood contributes to the function in any way.

    On the other hand, as I listen, there is this whole story of trees that are unimaginably old, and somehow pieces of those trees got in the hands of a primate who carved it and put some circuits in it and made something that is an odd and unique expression of their creativity. He does seem to be approaching it with the appropriate amount of gravitas.

    Fascinating on several levels.

      1. Yes for my taste it is. Maybe that’s the whole idea behind this project but im not the right person for that. But like i said from designer point of view…working with unique materials and creating unique shapes i understand.

  3. It may have been more “respectful” (?) to explore what the unique qualities of that wood are, and, perhaps given the dimension of the pieces that he has, consider what things could be made.

    In a way, I think this is comparably valid to making some lovely original sculpture. I guess I’d want the hardward itself to have some unique or ground-breaking quality. If all the buttons were 16 bit pressure sensors, if the blocks themselves were mounted on high-res pressure sensors, and even had mouse-like laser positional thingies, and if all the other sensors were super high-res, that would at least make this a very versatile and responsive version of the Touché

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