For my main project, I am going to attempt to build a gamelan-style metallophone (metallic xylophone). While I haven’t yet nailed down what aesthetic it’s going to be, I do know the basic structure of the instrument. It’s going to be a “box-resonated” instrument (see feature image), as opposed to the tubes you might see coming off of every individual key on a normal xylophone. I am going to try for 7-8 keys, but depending on the tuning system I use it could vary—western music has 7 notes in a scale (so 7 keys plus on top to make the octave), but the gamelan tuning scheme uses 5 equally-spaced notes that cover the same distance, so I could get away with 6 keys if I use gamelan tuning.

Even though I haven’t decided on an aesthetic for the instrument, I did sketch out a couple of ideas for this instrument in styles that I probably won’t end up using. Below are two ideas for the instrument in two very different styles: mid-century modern and gothic.

The mid-century modern design (top) uses the style’s signature diagonal legs. I sketched this from a straight-on point of view, but if this design were actually realized it would likely have four legs. I also included an 8-pointed star design that was present in some MCM-style things but was also a common design element in Googie signage and decoration in the 1950s. These are intended to be holes cut into the side of the resonator box to allow sound to come out of the instrument, and so they would be facing “front” (toward the audience).

The gothic xylophone is the same overall form, but with a few differences. Instead of the googie 8-pointed stars, I added 3 quatrefoils instead. For the legs, I sketched out 4 legs which create 3 gothic-style arches underneath the instrument. I also added a couple of decorative handles which I thought would fit in well, as opposed to the more modern handle-free design of the mid-century modern xylophone.

While I don’t think I will be doing either of these designs, I think that the mid-century xylophone has the greatest potential to be turned into a real-life object. I think a nice postwar sage green color would go nicely with the style.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Your exploration of design styles for your gamelan-style metallophone is impressive! The sketches of mid-century modern and gothic aesthetics offer intriguing possibilities. While you may not pursue these exact designs, they provide valuable insight. I’m excited to see how your project unfolds! Keep up the great work!

  • Hey Josh,

    Diving into the creation of a gamelan-style metallophone with a box-resonated structure is a fascinating endeavor, bridging traditional musical heritage with personal creative expression. Your exploration of different aesthetics, even those you might not ultimately choose, showcases a thoughtful approach to design that honors both the instrument’s cultural origins and your own artistic vision. Whether it ends up donning the mid-century modern aesthetic or takes on a completely new style, the blend of functionality and aesthetics in your project is sure to resonate. Can’t wait to see which direction you decide to go with and how it all comes together!

    All the best!


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