On Marimba Lumina: Electronic Percussion


Davel’s study and use of electronic music for performance and composition led him to seek music controllers that added new techniques to pair with new expression variables. As it worked out, Davel found himself working for over twenty years with the premier developer of unique music controllers such as Thunder and Lightning — the late Don Buchla. That's where the Marimba Lumina comes in. With software contribution from Mark Goldstein, and now circuit board layout from Davel, Don Buchla created a design that was second to none, defining everything that electronic percussion should be: a means to expand a percussionist's creative potential. The collaboration allowed Davel to make the Marimba Lumina his primary electronic instrument.

Pictured above with the Gold Edition of Marimba Lumina, the Marimba Lumina's versatility has allowed Mr. Davel to use it for bringing to life solo compositions using unique other-world sounds, and also to emulating acoustic percussion instruments when needed in ensembles.

Because while Davel’s goal is to use electronics for musical possibilities only afforded by electronics, as a free-lance percussionist, reality necessitates that it have ability impersonate acoustic percussion instruments as well. He has used it in in every performance setting imaginable: classical and contemporary operas, theater, musicals, church gigs, jazz groups, chamber groups and countless dance performances.

Like a traditional marimba (of the xylophone/vibraphone family), the Marimba Lumina is a melodic keyboard mallet instrument. But with it's unique technology and it's sophisticated implementation, it allows for more musical control than a typical electronic keyboard or mallet instrument--allowing the player to expand the boundaries of live performance.

To see demonstrations of what a performer can do with a Marimba Lumina, see www.youtube.com/user/jjdavel

To see and hear examples of how the Marimba Lumina has been used for Joel's original compositions and live accompaniment of dance company 'dNaga', watch one of many videos of works such as Shaking and Shocking, Freedom House, Reveal Freedom, Pieces of Freedom, and NoodleWomen at dNaga.org

To see and hear examples of how Joel employs the Marimba Lumina with the Dresher-Davel Duo and Double Duo, see this page of video excerpts on YouTube

Note: With production from both Nearfield Multimedia and Buchla and Associates having ceased, Joel's venture |D| Absolute Deviation is the only source for the Marimba Lumina. Please see the |D| Absolute Deviation website for much more info. Or simply type in MarimbaLumina.com.

There is nothing electronic that can match the natural sound and feel of acoustic instruments. Electronic percussion can however, be approached as an instrument for live performance with a life all its own. But with composers having existing repertoire and expecting more sonic resources on smaller live budgets, the reality is that electronic emulations of acoustic instruments is often a practical approach too.

The Lumina is truly a unique instrument. Though it's software borrows heavily from the ideas in Buchla's Thunder and Lightning controllers, it's hardware is unlike previous controllers. Marimba Lumina makes sophisticated use of radio frequency technology. Unique frequency assignments allow each mallet to have it's own unique response. Overlapping antennas make position along the bar an expressive variable.Now putting unique control at the hands of any trained mallet player. It is an instrument design by Don Buchla in collaboration with percussionist/technician Joel Davel and programmer/percussionist Mark Goldstein. Joel did the circuit board layout and factory programs and first performed with the above Lumina in June 1999.

Joel performs on all three varieties of the Marimba Lumina: Gold (4-1/3 octave), 3.5 (3.5 octave), and 2.5 (2.5 octave). As seen in the picture above, Joel performed on Marimba Lumina Gold for several years with Jack West and Curvature. He performed exclusively on the 3.5 with Amy X Neuburg and Men, and with the 2.5 in Peter and the Starcatcher. Besides solo appearances, Joel can be found with the Gold in the Dresher Davel Invented Instrument Duo and with the 3.5 in the Paul Dresher Ensemble Electro-Acoustic Band

But Joel is ready to accept all new controllers. See Joel create for the BopPad here or here. Force Sensitive Resistors drive most of the Kat MIDI percussion devices available through Alternate Mode Inc. Joel has also employed piezo-electric pickups with the K&K MIDI Master on his acoustic marimba. And now Keith McMillen is using his "smart fabric" for a mallet controller. These technologies, though cleverly implemented and cheaper, are more limiting than the Marimba Lumina.

Joel's interest in electronic percussion is not limited to controllers. Joel started his affair with electronic percussion by using "envelope followers" on analog synthesizers (like the Buchla 230 from the popular Buchla 200 and 200e series) connected to piezo elements that were glued to clothing and unusual strikable objects.