Learning to play an instrument is not easy. It’s comparable, I guess, to riding a bike for the first time or speaking a new language. It takes time, patience and practice. I think that’s why we are usually quite impressed when we meet a skilled musician, or learn that a friend is secretly fluent in three languages. How did they do it, and where did they find the time?! Artist and musician Henry Madin is one of these people.
The young artist and musician works out of the new Schoolhouse Studios in East Brunswick, a big collaborative plant-filled space with a communal latte machine that fuels its inhabitants. Here, Henry makes instruments, and not just any instruments, good looking sculptural instruments. In fact, one was mistaken the other day for ‘a giant expensive weird lamp’.
Henry is a talented musician, and member of local band The Harpoons. He grew up surrounded by a lot of instruments. ‘It was expected that you would give each and every one a go,’ he explains. ‘This upbringing definitely led me to try to create an open musical environment for others – one where there is no pressure, just exploration.’ And Henry does just that. Crafted predominantly using timber and metal, his instruments are usually accompanied by a series of percussion mallets that encourage people to make their own music.
At uni, Henry undertook a Bachelor of Fine Art, majoring in sound art, while also exploring industrial design and sculpture. This unusual study path soon led Henry to discover he could combine his interests in both music and design, by making instruments. ‘These instruments became a way to express my ideas about music, and the way it should be shared,’ Henry explains.
Henry’s instrument making practice is divided into two areas. He makes practical everyday instruments designed for musicians, and he also creates fine art exhibition works. Last year, alongside artist Brodie Vera Wood, Henry created three instruments in distinctive curvaceous, organic shapes that were shown in a series of exhibitions at First Site Gallery, Blindside Ari, Craft, and RMIT. ‘We wouldn’t have even tried to make something so weird if we weren’t egging each other on, but thankfully it worked, and the instruments sounded quite beautiful and unique’ Henry says.
Presently, Henry is developing a range of handmade instruments under the name Hundo, with his brother and bandmate Jack Madin. ‘Hundo will sell simple handmade instruments, both electronic and acoustic,’ Henry says. The pair will launch the collection with an exhibition at Schoolhouse Studios in July.