Thingamajigs makes music, and so can you—without even leaving the room. “People don’t have to spend a thousand dollars on an instrument to make meaningful music. We can find a lot of what we need in our environment,” says Edward Schocker, who co-founded the organization with Dylan Bolles in 1997.
As students at Mills College at the time, they noticed other composers were interested in electronics, as were a lot of their friends. Edward and Dylan started encouraging them to use technology for music, even making their own electronic tools, an unusual approach back then. It was fun, and it suited their setting. “That approach was an extension of the do-it-yourself attitude brought by the pioneers as they moved West,” Edward notes, an approach building upon a movement pioneered in the Bay Area by Lou Harrison and Harry Partch, born in Oakland at the turn of the century. “And because our proximity to Asia, we also became interested in musical traditions other than just those from Europe.”
Their interests became a mission, and their mission shaped their music, starting with school programs. Many schools lacked a budget for music, so Thingamajigs helped students make their own instruments. Right away, they noticed students valued the music more when they played on things they had designed and made.
Now there are many more venues to pursue their collaborative efforts, from hacker spaces to maker-oriented tech shops. Each exploration gives them an opportunity to pursue music in a different way, a goal they take seriously. “We’ve moved beyond tinkering,” says Edward. “Finding a new instrument is getting your feet wet, but that’s just a start. It’s a very deep pool.”