Artist Ken Butler Turns One Man’s Trash Into Another Man’s Quirky Stringed Instrument

Hey, hoard­ers, think you’re the only ones who see poten­tial in a sin­gle crutch, an emp­ty Scotch bot­tle, the jagged remains of a skate­board?  Not so. Musi­cian, artist, and all-around vision­ary Ken But­ler has been turn­ing such trash into trea­sure since 1978, when he fit­ted an ax with a tail piece, fin­ger­board and con­tact mic and snug­gled it inside a 3/4 size vio­lin case. Chop a cher­ry tree with it, or play it just like Bud­dy Guy plays his ax. Like most of the hybrids But­ler cre­ates in his Brook­lyn stu­dio, it’s a func­tion­ing musi­cal instru­ment, though he’s quick to point out that for him, the sound is imma­te­r­i­al. What real­ly counts is the poet­ic cou­pling of unlike­ly mate­ri­als.

Things real­ly get cookin’ at the 4:20 mark, when But­ler plays a few licks on a three-stringed shov­el before mov­ing on to a bow­able, elec­tri­fied ten­nis rack­et. The results are far love­li­er than the mas­ter would lead you to believe.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day can stum­ble her way through the Enter­tain­er if there’s a piano handy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Mak­ing a Fla­men­co Gui­tar: 299 Hours of Blood, Sweat & Tears Expe­ri­enced in 3 Min­utes

Mak­ing Fend­er Gui­tars, Then (1959) and Now (2012)

The Joy of Mak­ing Artis­tic Home­made Gui­tars

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