Releasing hidden music- Local music man creates instruments from hardware, salvage items

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Published on February 21, 2018 with No Comments

by Steve Euvino

These are sample musical instruments Joe Rauen has built from everyday hardware and salvage items.

Who needs music stores when you have hardware stores, salvage shops, and department stores like Target? Joe Rauen knows where to shop when he’s got an idea for a musical instrument.

Sure, he could go to a music store, pay for an instrument and all that go with it. Then again, where’s the creativity for this maker of such unique musical instruments such as the Tennis Racquet Banjo, PVC clarinet, Dobro-Cello, and Kalimba-on-Skis?

Joe Rauen of Munster displays musical instruments he created from everyday items for a program Jan. 27 at the Hobart branch library. This particular guitar includes pieces from a walking cane, hockey stick, and broom.

“Most of my stuff comes from hardware stores,” Rauen told a packed house Jan. 27 at the Hobart branch library.

Throw in salvage stores and Target, and Rauen has all he needs to make something that creates beautiful sounds.

Rauen, 37, started building his own musical instruments about eight years ago. An office worker by day, Rauen describes himself as an artist and musician with a sense of creativity.

Joe Rauen plays this homemade banjo-type instrument during his presentation Jan. 27 at the Hobart branch library.

“I wanted to try to fuse artist and musician,” he said, “and it just got more and more outlandish.”

Joe Rauen plays a Dobro-Cello. The Munster resident builds musical instruments from everyday items.

How outlandish can music making become? Consider musical instruments made from suitcases, hockey sticks, walking canes, tennis racquets, brooms, and stop signs? This is an inventor who, while walking down the PVC aisle at a hardware store, thinks saxophones. He did use PVC pipe on a clarinet.

One instrument, which Rauen dubs a “buzz box,” features forks, spoons, door stops, and door hooks.

“The objects around us are so full of personality,” Rauen said, “and we have such a narrow view of what they can do.”

When people let their creativity loose, he continued, “the world becomes a crazy, creative place.”

Rauen, a Munster resident, displayed many of his creations, including the Electric Shovel. “Bucket sold separately,” he joked.

When asked about using a crane, Rauen noted, “I’d love to have a crane, so I could make a saxophone out of it.”

A writer of original music, Rauen began playing the alto sax in fifth grade. He then played bass in high school and college. These days, he uses a suitcase for bass. The used suitcase contains stickers from different destinations, which Rauen feels adds to the “personality” of the instrument.

Growing up in Park Forest, Ill., Rauen said his family, though not musically inclined, “encouraged creativity.”

That creativity led Rauen to create a banjo from a tennis racquet.

When asked how long it takes to make one instrument, Rauen had no precise answer, other than “a really long time,” possibly one instrument even nine months.

Rauen faces time constraints, along with the fact that these original creations have no blueprint, other than what’s in his mind. And even creativity is no guarantee the instrument will work.

The building process, Rauen explained, is a two-step process: Build the instrument. Then see what it will do.

“Not all of my ideas are brilliant,” he confessed. “Some are ill-conceived.”

A few decades ago, instrument inventors followed Experimental Musical Instruments magazine. Nowadays, creative minds rely on the Internet.

“There’s no limit” to what one can build, Rauen said. “You can make it as weird and wild as you can.”

Rauen is currently working on several new instruments. Among his influences is the Carnatic music of southern India.

Rauen has not sold any of his instruments, noting, “They’re all literally one of a kind.”

For those with an idea for an instrument, Rauen counsels them to find the nearest spatula and breadbox and let their creativity go.

“There is a whole community of people who love this stuff and want to see your work,” Rauen states on his website. “They have a genuine interest in seeing what you made.”

It’s not about finding an easier way to make music, Rauen adds.

“There is a vast creative real estate waiting to be claimed,” he states on the web. “The objects all around you are waiting for your creativity to bring this alive and release the hidden music.”

For more on Joe Rauen’s unique musical instruments, visit his website at www.joerauen.com. His work can also be found on YouTube and Instagram.

When asked how long it takes to make one instrument, Rauen had no precise answer, other than “a really long time,” possibly one instrument even nine months.

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