Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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9 Mar 2006

Top Five Things to Do With Oil Barrels When There’s No More Oil To Fill Them – #3. Make a Steel Drum and Party!

drummerAn energy descent culture will need to entertain itself of an evening, as plasma screen televisions, home cinema units, indeed most electricity based entertainment will be out. We will need to rediscover the art of making music rather than consuming it through electronic media. Oil drums will come in very handy, we can make them into steel drums. Steel drum music originated in Trinidad, and is now a world wide phenomenon. It has evolved into doing some very innovative modern interesting stuff too. On DJ Shadow’s Diminishing Returns CD (hard to get, but usually available on EBay) he has a version of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ played by a steel band, which is rather wonderful.

steel drumAs for how to make them, Wikipedia has this description…

>Pans are constructed by pounding the top of the oil drum into a bowl-like shape, known as “sinking” the drum. The drum is tempered over a fire until it is “white hot” and allowed to cool. Then the notes are laid out, shaped, grooved, and tuned with a variety of hammers and other tools. The note’s size corresponds to the pitch – the larger the oval, the lower the tone.

>The size of the instrument varies from one pan to another. It may have almost all of the “skirt” (the cylindrical part of the oil drum) cut off and around 30 soprano-range notes. It may use the entire drum with only 3 bass notes per pan, in which case one person may play 6 such pans. The length of the skirt generally corresponds to the tessitura (high or low range) of the drum. The pans may either be painted or chromed.

steel bandSo, probably not something that you’ll be able to do yourself, but something that could happen at a community level. In terms of oil drums as musical instruments, an experimental ‘industrial’ UK band from the 1980s called Test Department used to drum on them and saw them up on stage, as did the equally fascinating Einsturzende Neubauten, who also used pneumatic drills as musical instruments. Probably not the kind of thing you would want around the fireplace of an evening after a hard day’s clay plastering and pulling carrots, but they did some great stuff. Anyway, oil barrels as musical instruments, a very useful post peak utilisation methinks.

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1 Comment

Nicholas Harvey
10 Mar 6:33pm

As a guitarist I’m concerned about whether I’ll be able to get guitar strings. Should I start stockpiling now?