Design Tasmania
Corner of Brisbane and Tamar streets
Launceston, 7250
+61 3 6331 5506

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21st January - 17th April 2022

Organology: the science of musical instruments and their classifications. This collection of curious and master-crafted instruments all relate to Tasmania in some way. Electrophones, aerophones, membranophones, idiophones and chordophones. 

Curated by Natalie Holtsbaum + Presented for Mona Foma 2022.


Mat Ward | Dylan Banks | Scot Cotterell | Martin Blackwell | Dr Karlin Love | Garry Greenwood | Marcus Tatton | Dan Magnus | Emily Sheppard | Roger Bodley | Chris Henderson | Daniel Brauchli | Grant Maddock | Paul Barter | Mark Gilbert | Rex Greeno.

Image: Mat Ward


Kelp Violin

Intonarumori Organology

Curator's Statement: Natalie Holtsbaum

Is music a more profound way of connecting than verbal or written language?

Organology can help us explore answers to that question. It’s the science of musical instruments and their classifications – embracing the history of instruments, how they are used across cultures, and technical questions about how instruments produce sound and more.

Organology is a close companion to ethnomusicology – examining the form, context, performance environment, and the interrelationship between instrument, performer and sound object.

This exhibition foregrounds how musical instruments hold and deliver significant social value.

Garry Greenwood’s leather orchestra connects a thriving ensemble of wind instrument musicians – as guardians of a wider collection. Modifications to existing instruments open questions around new genres, including experimental musical instruments where the process of making sound is reconsidered.

Today we know that music stimulates neural pathways that build empathy, trust, and cooperation.
Can the thrill of connection through music drive more of us to approach this COVID pandemic differently – to look it straighter in the eye? Dive more deeply into ourselves? Be bolder and even more intentional in our actions?
Can we move beyond our fears about attending musical performances with many people – who we fear as strangers, even as vectors of infection?

Is it possible to surrender to the shared experience of being moved by the same beat – and experience the poetic complexities of lyric meeting melody?
Can this help us break down social prejudices and consumption practices – to co-create more common ground?

Can this enable our better acknowledgment of Tasmanian designers who have focused on instruments of sound?

Their work hones traditions of master craftsmanship, making and application of engineered mechanics either by adhering to tradition or intentionally challenging preconceptions of what a musical instrument can be.

Through these works, some designers celebrate the distinctive tonality of Tasmanian timbers – whose density of grain can generate an exceptional velocity of sound … transmitting a vibrational energy. Others look more specifically to the components and expose their workings.

All that’s more needed than ever, for all of us, right now.

Image: courtesy of Chris Henderson.

Kelp Violin

Chris Henderson

This kelp violin is made from Tasmanian bull kelp (durvillaea potatorum) which grows on the west coast of Tasmania.

“Making a violin is a gift from the luthier to the musician, and above all to the music. For me there is something captivating about listening to an instrument that started life as discarded kelp washed up on a wild beach.”

Making a Kelp Violin


Kelp Amplifier + Kelp Eel Drum

Emily Sheppard

A dive into the chilly waters of coastal Tasmania is rewarded by a mesmerising underwater environment; dappled light through ever-swaying seaweeds, and chance encounters of organisms big and small that take your breath away. Diving deeper down, beneath the canopy, you are greeted by a mysterious world of brightly coloured seaweeds, marine lichens and anemones. A rich landscape for artistic inspiration.

Seaweed forests are ancient ecosystems for which many organisms have come to rely on. Around one billion years ago, long before land ecosystems were full of trees, scented flowers and humans, the very first seaweeds emerged: multi-cellular, branched, and micro. Seaweeds photosynthesise, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, in the same way as plants and trees. This provides an essential service for the many oxygen-requiring animals on Earth; fundamental to our every breath. Seaweed forests also provide food and shelter for marine invertebrates and fish, whose waste in turn provides nutrients to fuel seaweed growth.

For tens of thousands of years, seaweeds and kelps have been used by First Nations people in lutruwita/Tasmania, as a valuable and diverse resource for many different aspects of life. These kelp instruments remind us of our complex dependence on and relationship to natural systems. With ocean waters warming increasingly every year, seaweed forests are shrinking. These beautiful and necessary ecosystems may too soon become a museum piece.

Kelp Amplifier Audio: WindTides

Making a Kelp Amplifier

Kelp Amplifier

Kelp Violin + Ukelele

Roger Bodley

Embarking on making a kelp violin was the result of a challenge issued by Emily after a BIGhArt musical event in the Tulip Farm as she demonstrated how her hollow kelp resonator was extremely rigid and resonant. The fronds of bull kelp were gathered from Marrawah and West Point in Circular Head, NW Tasmania.

Fresh kelp is thick, flexible and slippery, almost slimy, and cannot be glued, so I cut the parts and sewed them with beeswaxed hemp twine.
Over the next four weeks as the kelp dried out, it shrank asymmetrically, eventually becoming a small shrivelled box - “the Walnut” - which needed an exoskeleton to support the tension of the strings.

The remainder of the kelp was frozen to preserve it but when I checked a few days later, it was apparent that the water had left the kelp, which was 60-70% thinner, and formed a 2-3mm sheet of ice either side of the now leathery kelp and could be easily separated. As it fully dried, however, it shrank and distorted further so final shapes were unpredictable.
We found that it had excellent thermoplastic properties and were able to heat it and subsequently mould and cut it easily with a hot air gun. The fresh kelp was therefore cut about 30-40% oversize, dried out in the freezer and clamps until rigid and then cut and moulded to size and shape using the gun.

String tension was supported with an internal spine and a later version also had a carved blackwood neck and scroll - “The Dolphin”.

Two ukuleles were also made with a similar technique but as the string tension cannot be carried over to the tail, considerable support strengthening was needed that had to be stitched in as no glues were effective.

All surfaces were covered with a burnishing oil as the kelp is still very vulnerable to humidity and consequent distortion.

‘Djembe’ Log Drum

Marcus Tatton + Dan Magnus

The log drum ‘Djembe’ is an adaptation of the West African Djembe found predominately in Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea and Senegal. By hollowing the drums from solid logs of Tasmanian rainforest woods, the log drum ‘Djembe’ is long lasting and maximises the resonant qualities of the native timbers. The ‘Djembe’ design has an exceptionally wide dynamic range, making it an expressive and adaptable percussion instrument, applicable to both contemporary and classical music.

Log Drums Percussion developed in 1988 when Dan Magnus and Marcus Tatton collaborated to build an experimental wooden hand drum, while training at the Centre for Furniture Design in Hobart. Log Drums Percussion became a fulltime business in 1990 and continued for eight years. Magnus and Tatton produced a variety of traditional and customised percussion instruments, sought by contemporary and classical musicians throughout Australia and overseas. The endevour was deliberately kept small scale in order to maintain contact with the individual musician’s needs. Dan and Marcus would camp for weeks to source the waste log off cuts used for the drums, which they would carve initially with chainsaws on site. Back at the studio the drums were completed, including kiln drying, carving and tensioning of the skin across the drum.

The 'Djembe' is part of the Design Tasmania Wood Collection.


Marcus Tatton

Dan Magnus