Toy instruments – Design Nostalgia Music, from the collection of Eric Schneider, introduction by DJ Spooky

Toy instruments - Design Nostalgia Music

Mark Batty Publisher, ISBN  978-0982075487, USA, 2010, English
Square and compact, this book is reminiscent of an old tin box, like those used to contain ginger biscuits or other mysterious delicacies. From his personal collection, Eric Schneider has created this delightful collection of toy musical instruments from around the world. The earliest pieces are from the 60s, but most coincide with the golden age of home computers, the period between the 70s and the 80s. Each piece is cataloged with its picture, the year of its release, its place of origin, and a (hilarious) pay-off illustrating its workings or the various types of sound produced. Some lucky models are also accompanied by their boxes: skateboard-shaped keyboards (complete with useful wheels), folding wrist watch-keyboards, and a legendary “magical musical object”, which is anatomically shaped and has thousands of possible uses. The only black and white picture shows the object that triggered the entire collection, the author’s coveted Christmas gift that he never received: the “One & Only” Stylophone, a pocket organ used by David Bowie in “Space Oddity”. Appealing to the fetish for “circuit benders”, these toy musical instruments are objects of interest for hacker musicians, forming a treasure box of endless (new) sound. DJ Spooky’s introduction focuses on the musical value (rather than nostalgic and aesthetic) of these objects. In a video game arcade we can’t progress to the next level without winning the previous one. Similarly, the collection of Eric Schneider invites us to go back to when contemporary electronic music was in its embryonic state, giving us a perfect perspective for understanding the present.

Chiara Ciociola