Wish List: Małe Instrumenty

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Sometimes you order a bunch of stuff from Poland and your far-more-budget-conscious spouse gives you the stink-eye and says dismissively, “Do you even know how to read Polish?” And sometimes, after he looks through the books you are so happy to now own (happy early birthday to ME!), he graciously admits that the books you bought are really cool.

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I’ve been following the career and output of Polish musician/instrument maker Paweł Romańczuk (leader of the group Małe Instrumenty [Small Instruments]) for some time now. About five years ago I was researching toy pianos and was dismayed to discover there was no academic book on the subject. Digging around to no avail, I emailed the good people at Schoenhut to see if they had any leads. They did! They cced me with Paweł, who had written a book on the history of the toy piano…in Polish…and we emailed back and forth a few times before I, well, had a baby and couldn’t indulge my curiosities.

But I’d track his projects and try to figure out how to get myself to Poland sometime (still no luck) and then get really pissed off when I realize I couldn’t even get to MIT when they had him there for a residency. But, thanks to MIT having ridiculous ILL fees, I realized it was actually cheaper (and more satisfying) to just order straight from the source.

But so much is online and the media so lovingly detailed and well produced, understanding Polish isn’t absolutely necessary. (Fair warning: this YouTube spiral is a long and glorious ride.)

First, the album/book that started it all (for me, at least, Paweł’s been doing this awhile): “Small Instruments Playing Chopin.”

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I’m not drooling, you’re drooling.

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The first half is beautiful pictures of the items in his collection, while the second half features a history of the toy piano and the many musicians prominent in its history.

Then THIS, which makes me want to get out all the tools and just MAKE and see what happens. “Samoróbka” or “Homemade Instruments” described as experiments with musical instruments at home; a handbook for creative and couragious at any age.

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Not only does the book have gorgeous pictures of the instruments they made to produce this record, but the last third has instructions for making your own instruments. Instructions in Polish, of course, but awesome line drawings and a bit of common sense (and Google Translate) and you can get ready to make a lot of cool noises.

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Even the book is an instrument:

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It’s genius and it makes me love everything. See more in this video.

And I got myself a little bonus: “Katakaryn,” their music box album attached to a music box. Be still my heart.

But hey: there are still more books/albums from his catalog I didn’t buy myself…if anyone is feeling Christmas-y….I’d be up for a trip to Poland!

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