Thursday, May 01, 2014
If You Make Things, You Are My Brother: Sabian Cymbals
Cymbal making is one of those weird processes that straddles the line between art and science. You're trying to make something that will live in the world of being musical, a nebulous world indeed, but it's born in the gritty world of an old school factory. The process still looks vaguely medieval, even if there is a punch clock around there somewhere.
The lathe process caught my eye in the video. Buncha Morlocks and Orcs shovel the cymbal blanks around the cavern for a while, then a guy starts spinning it like he's making a salad bowl, and he becomes this sort of audio Cellini, shearing the alloy blank to make it lighter and brighter. You can still see the grooves the lathe dude leaves in the cymbal when you examine one on a bandstand. They're a human artifact on a mass-produced item; that's very rare in this world. The only human artifact on a mass-produced item I've purchased recently is a fingerprint on the inside of the lens of my snapshot camera, which has been blurring a spot on my photos for half a decade at this point.
My eleven-year-old son strikes Sabian cymbals,the same ones that his father struck before him, so this video is like a postcard from an old friend. Here the boy when he was only nine, whacking on the things, along with his brother. He's hitting just the cymbals, not the cymbals and the brother, I mean. They only hit each other when the camera's off.