I decided to learn how to play percussion instruments when I felt that rhythm is the beating of every life’s and of every creation’s heart.
I often sit by myself, preoccupied, and begin to rap unspecified rhythms with my fingers. They leave my body spontaneously and effortlessly. I imagine our forefathers in a similar situation: sitting in a circle at night, beating a twig or branch rhythmically. This is how musical history must have begun.
As a potter I wanted to create an instrument I could play. I wanted to make it very special. I began construction thinking that it would be easy. It proved to be very demanding and arduous work.
Afterwards I wanted to create a better one. And so I made another one, and another one…and another one. I continue to do so today.
It was like a game. However, the sound, like a Siren, bewitched me and I began to experiment. Through observation, search and listening, I began to find the points which determine and improve the sound, the functionality and quality of the instrument.
Shortly thereafter, another game began involving shapes, forms and endless combinations, which thanks to clay – a material with infinite moulding possibilities – became even more interesting. This creation’s purpose was each instrument to comprise a work with life, personality and acoustic individuality. To be unique.
I often work on traditional or classic instrument forms. Even though they have been worked on for centuries and may have even acquired perfection, musicality and the abstraction of the ideal, I hope that a few points have remained, which I can improve on even more by changing them.
Other times, I let my imagination fly free, as far as it pleases. What it brings back are ideas for unique and special instruments beyond rules, that are merely claiming a privileged position in the field; instruments that resemble three-dimensional notes.
I basically work with white, stoneware clay containing grog and I can lend it a rough exterior texture, so that the instrument does not slip through the hands. An additional reason why I use white clay is that white colour can be easily modified. I use beige Cretan clay largely to manufacture udu drums, which should be exceptionally thin. This clay is of an appropriate plasticity helping, thus, achieve the desirable result. I work on the potter’s wheel and each shape I produce is unique and renders a similarly unique acoustic result.
Planning is a necessary requirement, so that the decoration, the attachment of the goat skin, the mounting height of the electrical system and all other details can be appropriately carried out in each phase. All phases have their own impact to the overall outcome. The manufacturing thickness, the openings for the fastening of the skin, the shape of the resonating cavity, the height of the narrowest part of the instrument, the diameter of this narrowest part in proportion to the resonance cavity, the length of the sound exit and its opening, as well as the depth of the furrows in the instrument’s interior are some of the parameters to be considered during the manufacturing process. There are endless combinations and tonal variations.
The entire manufacturing process, from the beginning to the end, resembles a ritual, requires both time and patience, while the type of interference in every single phase determines respectively the final character of the instrument. Therefore, each instrument is unique and idiosyncratic, since the combination of the manufacturing details does not recur, while at the same time a different acoustic result is yielded. A single change to a single detail presents a new opportunity for experimentation and I always look forward to the acoustic result. I usually use a shape on the basis of which I develop different variations and every time I obtain interesting results. Occasionally some instruments’ performance tends to deteriorate, but even in this case I manage to discover the performance limits of each instrument.
Subsequently, the patterns are engraved and the instrument’s body is allowed to dry. After the first firing, the engobes (liquid clay slips) are applied by painting techniques on the dry clay surface. During the second painting phase, the surface is coated with a mixture of engobes and glaze and the second firing is performed. Occasionally, I use either grey, brown-yellow, black or green-turquoise enamels, which I manufacture myself, in order to cover the entire exterior surface of some instruments.
In the manufacturing of some other instruments I employ other decorative techniques. On one hand glazing refers to the application of a metal oxide, clay and glass mixture for the painting of the ceramic surface and is followed by a second firing. On the other hand I might paint with engobes and then perform one firing at high temperature. The character of each instrument usually influences its decoration and painting method, style and technique. The raw materials used for the manufacturing of the enamels and the colours do not contain lead, cadmium, barium, boron or other toxic substances and are completely safe.
Then, the goat skin is attached and the electrical system is mounted. (Small instruments do not feature an electrical system so as to be more affordable)
The thickness and texture of the skin should be appropriately chosen, so as to match the special features of the instrument’s shape.
Subsequently, the skin is appropriately processed, stretched and attached on the instrument. The glue used is made of a special mixture that prevents as little as possible the transmission of the vibrations from the goat skin to the body of the instrument. This is an important phase in the entire procedure, as the ceramic body, depending on the type of clay and its firing, adapts to the skin and produces vibrations that contribute to the final acoustic result. This is exactly why some instruments do not feature a binding at the point where the skin is attached.
Furthermore, the skin of certain instruments is painted using vegetable pigments (prepared by boiling beetroots, chicory, onions, etc.) and the colour to be used is always selected on the basis of the colour of the ceramic surface.
The electrical system mounted on some instruments ensures that the acoustic tone is maintained under any circumstances, since natural skin is subject to ambient temperature and humidity changes. This system complies with the ΕΝ-60598-1 standard. The accessories and their mounting conform to the safety regulations stipulated by the European Union.
The instruments featuring an electrical system are accompanied by an 4m extension cord with appropriate pins and a dimmer. When this cord is plugged, the temperature can be properly adjusted enabling the maintenance of a stable pitch even under extreme frost or humidity conditions. The extension cord is equipped with the appropriate parts for connection with the external plug of the instrument. The use of the provided extension cord is recommended, as its parts are compliant with the relevant specifications. If, however, you wish to purchase another commercially available extension cord, make sure that it features the appropriate pins (plug) and a dimmer with the specified power limits (watt).
A detailed User manual is provided with each purchased instrument containing details about the technical features, as well as guidelines for the operation and the maintenance of the product.
All instruments are unique. The website pictures/photographs correspond to the instrument described each time and are identified by a specific code number. The photographs of the sold instruments are removed from the relevant web page. The web site is being constantly enriched with new hand-crafted instruments.
You can visit Tetraktis workshop and view more instruments, which are not included in the website due to certain peculiarities.