Mammoth Beat Organ

By Sam Underwood and Graham Dunning

The Dunning Underwood Mammoth Beat Organ is a modular, mechanical music contraption created by Sam Underwood and Graham Dunning. Designed as a two-player, semi-autonomous musical instrument, it plays unusual, sometimes erratic compositions drawing on drone music, minimalist repetition, and fairground organ techniques.

The pair iterated through various power sources, using a roller from the back of a hearse and a motor out of an old treadmill, and settled on a roller from a conveyor belt. This sits at the centre of the device. This turns bike wheels attached to different instruments, and the system is modular, so Sam and Graham can swap components in and out mid-performance to create a unique sound every time it’s played.
The valves that distribute air to the various organ pipes are repurposed ballcock valves from toilets.

Says Graham: “It’s slightly dangerous… there are various parts where you can trap your fingers in the gears. I think you’d have to really know what you’re doing to not injure yourself.”

“It’s heavy, cumbersome, and completely fills my van,” says Sam, “but it takes the music in a different direction. We never know where it’s going to lead.”

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