Wednesday 28 July 2010

Memory Stick

In 2009, I found a big stick clinging to the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis. It was floating in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, right in front of the spot where the the Louisiana Territory was transferred from France to the United States.

I took it back to my hotel. Later that evening I needed a memory stick to transfer some files from a friend's computer, so I ran back to my room to get it. I saw the water logged stick propped up in the corner. I grabbed it along with the data device. When I returned to my friend's room I held the giant stick over my head and announced "I have the memory stick!!" The name stuck.

The roots of my idea for this instrument lie in Dorset, England. It was here where I first witnessed a troupe of Morris Dancers using a broom handle with a baby boot on the bottom and some bottle tops nailed into it as a rhythm instrument to accompany their dancing. This experience lead to the creation of the Groanbox freedom boot, which has been stomped all over the UK for almost five years and has inspired many others to build their own versions of the instrument.

Legend has it that the origins of the modern English version of this instrument known as the "Zob Stick" has its roots in the Aborigines of Australia. The Aborigines use a rhythm stick covered in seashells, similar to native Americans who have been known to use rhythm sticks covered in deer hooves and other organic material.

My father and I went to Sanibel Island, the "seashell capital of the world," in early 2010 to collect a big bucketful of seashells.

Memory Stick: one "stick" from the Mississippi River - sanded and varnished, one white cow's tail from Argentina, acorn type shell casings from a tree in Brazil (large and small on separate strings), some sea glass embedded into the top of the stick, a bunch of seashells from Sanibel Island and some fishing line, goat hoof rattles from Bolivia