Robin Ryan in conversation with Mark Cain: Kernels of Discovery: Original musical instruments and acoustic sound designs

Document Type

Journal Article


Equinox Publishing Ltd


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts




Originally published as: Ryan, R. A., Cain, M, B. (2016) Robin Ryan in conversation with Mark Cain: Kernels of discovery: Original musical instruments and acoustic sound designs. Perfect Beat, 17(1). Article available here


In contributing to the practice and production of Perth's vibrant music scene since the 1980s, the Western Australian musician, inventor and instrument-maker Mark Cain (b. 1955) has remained true to a non-commercial instinct to construct wind instruments from discarded PVC piping and, more recently, glove pipes, compressed-air panpipes and bottle reedpipes. In dialogue with Robin Ryan, Cain demystifies the cul-de-sacs and tangents associated with the design and manufacture of instruments and sound gardens made from the simplest of natural and recycled materials. Futuristically, his largely whimsical creations prefigure a musical soundscape that will increasingly depend on locally made, sustainable instruments. In providing common ground for discursive mediation between performance-based and research-based constructs of environment, this conversation strengthens Appadurai's (1986) notion that 'Instruments are social things with histories and careers⋯ not what they are made to be, but what they become as they circulate and mutate'. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2016, Office 415, The Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield S1 2BX.