Something from nothing: music with no instruments and a cellphone

Chris Jeffery

  • Format: Webinar/Workshop
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Language: English
  • Ages: 14+
  • When: 30/06/2020 11:00 am
  • Recorded: Yes

Music creation in the digital age has become more accessible than ever. But it’s an activity still associated with owning lots of gear – soundcards, speakers, preamps, mixing desks, microphones, sonically treated spaces, expensive software, etc. We also obsess over a limited inventory of sounds: guitars, drums, saxophones, orchestral instruments. All this gear and all these instruments will always have a place in music-making. Yet they can also become a reason not to make music, convincing us that until we reach some (ever-receding) level of professional equipment, we can’t start creating.

This project, which was catalyzed by the Covid-19 lockdown, aims to challenge that narrative, showing that with a selection of household goods, couch pillows, a cellphone, free software, and the will to make music, endless musical possibilities exist.

The workshop will demonstrate this by covering the following topics:
• Choosing effective objects as instruments
• Creating workable cellphone recordings
• Setting up DIY temporary sound treatment
• Selecting useful phone apps for recording
• Understanding the fundamentals of audio processing

Did you miss it? Click play to watch the recording of the event below?

Presented as part of Creativate Digital Arts Festival.


Creator: Dr Chris Jeffery


Dr Chris Jeffery is head of music in the Dept of Art and Music at the University of South Africa, where he teaches composition, popular music and music technology. Chris wrote his doctoral thesis on the history of South African film music, including a symphonic rescoring of South Africa’s earliest feature film, De Voortrekkers (1916), to explore how film music can be used to signify and represent racial and cultural identities in film. Chris’s instrumental compositions have for several years explored chromatic symmetry, and frequently include environmental concerns, such as his most recent work Vox Maris (2019), which interprets transcriptions of whale song through the instrumentation of violin, clarinet and piano. His string quartet Holograms was recently performed by the Odeion String Quartet in Unisa’s Miriam Makeba Concert Hall. He has guest lectured at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland and the Shanghai Open University in China. Chris’s interests span the potential of technology to shift paradigms, whether in the realm of online education, cryptocurrencies or music technology.