A Room Full of Unique Musical Instruments

A collection of musical instruments. Including strings, woodwinds, and lamellophones. Mostly built out of household items.
None My project was to build an ever growing collection of one-of-a-kind musical instruments. The start date of this project is not totally clear even to me. The purpose of this project was to be able to use these instruments (with the help of a looping pedal) to compose, improvise, and perform music for people. To that extent it has been a success.

The earliest ones were made almost entirely from parts from existing objects. Typically tuners, pickups, and stings would be the only parts that had to get from music stores. Examples of these are the Stop Sign Hockey Stick Guitar and Bucket Cello.

Over time I concentrated more on creating visually interesting and functional pieces even if it meant using more parts from the music supplier, and often fabricating materials instead of finding them. Some examples of these include the Clarinets, Art Guitar No. 3, and Resonator Cello with Meticulously Arranged Brikabrak.

Now I tend to think about the most outlandish instrument I can make and see if it's possible to construct it and have it work. These instruments tend to require more techniques from traditional lutherie. These instruments are usually inspired and grow around some repurposed object but have fingerboards, nuts, and bridges more reminiscent of traditional instruments. These instruments also have even greater attention to color, texture, and overall visual appeal. Examples of this include Double Neck Bass with Sawblades, Brikabrak Banjo with Sitar Style Bridge, and Banjo From Autoharp with Canes and Sympathetic Strings.

I have been fortunate enough to play a number of concerts in and around Chicago. I had a year long residency at the Ace Hotel, played numerous libraries and coffee houses, a few fancy parties, and had an appearance on the WGN Morning News.

My collection of instruments continues to grow. The ones currently in progress are more interesting, more visually captivating, and more unusual than any of my previous work. I hope to continue this project long into the future and continue to perform for people when possible.

Joe Rauen : Maker
The maker Joe Rauen
Joe Rauen is an artist and musician, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, and a recipient of the Indiana Arts Commission Individual Advancement Project grant. He currently studies Carnatic music with the eminent veena player Saraswathi Ranganathan.

Connect with Joe Rauen
How I can help you:
Whatever meager wisdom I have about playing music or building instruments I am happy to share. Email me and I will be of service if I can.
How you can help me:
I hope then if/when COVID-19 is no longer actively spreading I can take my show on the road. I would love to know if there's a place where you live that would be a good fit for my music. It could be a club known for having unique acts. It could be a house that hosts house-concerts where the audience is particularly curious and attentive. It could be a particularly lovely space like an arboretum, museum, or gallery that has live music. Whatever it is let me know! If you have any connections to the space and can make an introduction on my behalf that would be even better!

I also have some interest in having the instruments I have made shown in art galleries. I have had one show so far, but generally I don't have good connections to the art world. If you have any tips or can make an introduction on my behalf that would be wonderful.