Many years ago as part of a sound design installation at Dundee University Botanic Gardens I was commissioned to devise various pieces which can be auditioned under the Garden of Light title under the main hub menu. The main piece features a recording of the Essendy/Lethendy Pictish drum, a recreation of a Pictish drum which was an exhibit at the now closed Pictavia museum in Brechin, Angus, Scotland. Recently I tracked this drum down to Angus museums archive, discovering it was stored in a basement archive at the Meffan Gallery and museum in Forfar, Angus, Scotland. After initial enquiries I was granted access to the drum by museum archive custodian John Johnston. It was a Saturday morning that I met my friend and colleague Ronnie Goodman, possibly Scotland's most experienced percussionist and ethnomusicologist at the museum. Ronnie played the drum experimenting with various techniques and patterns whilst I recorded the results with a pair of stereo Earthworks omni directional microphones and a portable Motu and laptop recording rig. A documentary of recordings and resulting research project will be forthcoming planned for completion summer 2018.
As a museum artefact the drum is of particular significance and value to the cultural heritage of North East Scotland. Whilst the custodians were happy for my access to the drum in the museum and under controlled conditions, the thought of requesting a loan of the drum for use in the field may have been pushing things. In response to this I devised a plan to create a reconstruction of the reconstruction! Friend and neighbour Dick Craig is a green woodworker craftsman specialising in traditional methods of woodworking and the added advantage of a breadth and depth of knowledge in field and woodland craft. Dick was approached early in the new year with the proposal to recreate the drum in the archive. Having agreed, another visit to the museum was scheduled for Dick to be able to examine the artefact for it's material construction. After some deliberation the body of the drum is of worked birch with raw deer hide for the drum heads and lattice worked sides. These would have been readily available resources to our Pictish ancestors and still in plentiful supply in our rural highland foothill location. By the end of January a dried section of timber was selected and a traditionally cured roe deer hide decided on for the heads and lattice cords along the drums sides. The process of construction has been fascinating as the photographs below show.
Dick has also found the process of researching and working the raw materials of interest. The depth of the drum, being more of a tom style drum than a shallow frame or shamanic drum, necessitated the construction of an extra long chisel to hollow out the birch trunk. As the process has progressed the raw materials are starting to take shape.
The completed artefact will be of use to my research in archaeoacoustics both in the controlled acoustic environment of the recording studio and for field work simulations/imaginings.... this will be continued.
The rambling thoughts and musings of an audio engineer/sound designer turned archaeoacoustician