Susan Rawcliffe

Susan Rawcliffe


Susan Rawcliffe makes, plays and research clay musical instruments: flutes, pipes, ocarinas, whistles, trumpets, didjeridus, and sound sculptures. Wanting to build a better flute, she began my research into the sounds and forms of archaic ceremonial flutes from prehispanic meso-American cultures, including West Mexican, Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec. Making acoustical studies of ancient flutes teaches Rawcliffe construction methods. Learning to play them unites a Western sensibility with ancient sounds and can illumine the next step in a flute’s creation. Reinvesting her insights over time, can teach her how to make better & better flutes; sometimes, through this process, she stumbles into into new instruments with inspiring melodies and evocative timbres. 

By cultivating peculiar acoustic systems, Rawcliffe can generate peculiar and sometimes extraordinary sounds. She loves subtle up close differences between sounds, the interaction of breath & sound, and feeling sound her my body. Some are raw, like animals, like grief; others evoke human voices singing or crying; sometimes, strange tones buzz inside each head.

Many of my flutes and sound sculptures have highly unconventional shapes. Rawcliffe enjoys considering their appearance, how the air flows, and how each fits into hands and mouth. Sometimes she creates a social sculpture with multiple flutes and whistles, suggesting opportunities for unique & potentially intimate interactions between sounds and between friends.

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