Neal Spowage – Electronic Dumbell

This performance of the Electronic Dumbell musical instrument has been developed with two choreographers, Angélina Jandolo and Danai Pappa to demonstrate new possibilities of the Dumbell using their expertise in performance and gesture.  Neal will also be able to give practical demonstrations of the Dumbell throughout the weekend.  The Electronic Dumbell was completed at STEIM in September 2010 and first performed for a devised improvisation in November 2010 at the Phoenix Square in Leicester.

Neal’s project was led by the intention of building an electronic musical instrument that takes advantage of the gestural expressions of a musician.  It is not a controller, an interface or an extended instrument.  It is a self-contained musical instrument.  It is constructed using Bricolage, Hardware Hacking, Circuit Bending, D.I.Y. Electronics, Iterative Design and Sculptural Presence.  Some components are shop bought or machined, such as the electronics and the speaker mounting plates, and others are found or readymade objects, such as the central handle (a piano key), the amplifier, the speakers (from the same electric piano as the piano key) and the lampshades.

There are two independent oscillators, one for each speaker.  Their default oscillation is altered when the instrument is moved triggering the short circuits.  The musician can tip and spin the Dumbell, like the mace of a drum major.  The musician can move around and interact with the performance space using the Dumbell, taking advantage of acoustic reflections.  Tightening and loosening ones grip on the handle alters the pitch of the generated sound.  The sounds are high, bird-like, and have the feel of a modern ‘chip’ instrument.

Neal Spowage was born in Scunthorpe and lives in Leicester. He is a Musician, Artist and Part Time Lecturer at De Montfort University. He is currently studying for a PhD in Music Technology under Dr. John Richards and Professor Simon Emmerson.

Neal gained a Bachelors Degree at DMU in Multimedia Design in 2002, and a Masters Degree in Music, Technology and Innovation in 2008. For the past four years he has played and composed for the Dirty Electronics Ensemble at De Montfort University. He has given Seminars, Presentations, Artists Talks and Performances at De Montfort University, STEIM, University of East Anglia, Royal Music Association Study Days and The Sheffield Access Space. His musical instruments were exhibited at the Solder Soldiers 2 exhibition, held at the Fabrika Gallery in Leicester from 14th to 26th June 2010. He released an Album with the ‘Screaming Banshee Aircrew’ in 2009 called ‘SUGAR’. He now plays and records in an alternative rock band/art project called ‘Luxury Stranger’ who have recently toured Europe with the Chameleons Vox and will be releasing new recordings in the next year.

He has had various jobs in his life including Chicken Chaser, Pizza Chef, Cross-Stitch Pattern Designer, Assistant Antiques Dealer, Assistant to the Scunthorpe Community Musician, and a Military Aeronautical Graphic Designer.