My earliest instrument was the upright bass, which I played from the third grade to the end of high school. When I got to college there was not a good opportunity to play the bass, and I soon fell in with a crowd of strange-music weirdos at WCUW Community Radio. I learned of and admired inventors/adaptors of strange musical instruments such as John Cage, Harry Partch, Harry Breuer, Eugene Chadbourne and Robert Rutman. Seeing Eugene perform on the rake and Rutman’s steel cellos was inspiring.

One day when walking home to my apartment on Castle Street, behind Castle Furniture and Appliance, I found a wringer washing machine lid, half-buried in the mud. I dragged it out and gave it a few experimental whacks and fell in love. I took at home and began experiment with ways to excite its musical energies. Mallets, erasers and particularly my old bass bow. I performed exclusively on the lid for twenty years, and have built several different body styles for it. Currently it is sort of a collapsible cello shape.

In the past few years I have branched out into new invented instruments including the Leaf Springoleon, the Crutch, the Bass Rake and the Electroluxopipeophone. Currently I am devoting most of my energies to the Harrow – pictured above.

I have performed in many groups including the Mass Sonics, Judas and Natasha Experiment, The Invented Thing Quartet, and PKD, as well as solo and in floating duos and trios.

Mitchel Ahern’s Invented Instruments