Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Hans Reichel's Daxophone

Hans Reichel's Daxophone
I'm a sucker for homemade and experimental instruments, but they're often more exciting in concept than execution. Hans Reichel, however, is at the top of the heap when it comes to inventors. His music is as weird as you please, but he retains a good grasp on the innovation-to-listenability ratio.

Based in Germany, Reichel first became known as an improviser on the prepared guitar. I like "The Death of the Rare Bird Ymir," which showcases his guitar work, equal parts organic and spacey. But for my money, you can't beat the Daxphone.

Daxophone tongues
The thing in the picture above is a daxophone. It belongs to the "friction idiophones" class of instruments, which includes the musical saw (which I play myself) and the glass harmonica (which deserves it's own entry - remind me to do that). On the right, you're looking at various tongues you can use to modify the sound. Rumour has it their shape was influenced by Reichel's work as a type designer. The tongue is fretted with a separate block of wood with frets on one side, and then struck or bowed to produce a huge range of pseudo-vocal sounds. The word "Dachs" is German for badger, and the name is somehow apt.

Reichel has provided schematics for musical carpenters who want to make their own daxophone. There may be a growing number of daxophone enthusiasts, but I have only heard Reichel's own recordings. The one I return to constantly is Yuxo, an operetta for daxophone. The songs are lush and full of humour, performed by Reichel using overdubs. The album has a vaguely tribal feeling, though it has no clear reference to anywhere geographical. I imagine children would like it as much as I do. Hands down, it is the most soulful experimental music I have ever heard.

Below is a link to Hans Reichel's website. It's a trip - visit and you might not come back. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any quality videos of Reichel performing live, but the song attached is taken from Yuxo. Cheers, -M

Not for the faint of heart:


  1. I've been looking for 'Yuxo' for years...literally. I have and love 'Shanghaied on Tor Road' but I need me some more Daxophone! I saw where I could buy a copy for 40+ dollars, but I can't afford that.

    I usually don't go around asking people to do things illegally for me, but is there any way you could get me a digital copy of this bad boy?

    Oh, by the way...I loved 'Marwencol''s what I wrote about it on my stupid little blog:

  2. Thanks for sharing, Matt! I actually ended up listening to it twice in the wee hours last night as I was working on a research paper...made the experience tolerable. I really can't think of any other music that fills me with this much joy. I love the unpredictability and, as you mentioned, the humor. There are daxophone sounds that just put the biggest smile on my face. Totally dig it, and thanks again.

    Speaking of experimental instruments, have I recommended Ken Butler's 'Voices of Anxious Objects'? It was released on John Zorn's label. Good stuff!

  3. How about Frank Pahl? My ipod just slipped a track from 'Remove the Cork' into my ears while I'm finishing up work for a grad school class, and I was moved enough to take it off shuffle and play that entire album...immediately thought of you. 'Remove the Cork'!