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Video: Xylophone made of old library volumes is one for the books

A Carleton prof played an hour-long concert on the bibliophone, an instrument made of retired books.

Performer and Carleton professor Jesse Stewart rocks out on an xylophone made of books inside Carleton University library. Stewart's January 23 performance was part of the Carleton University Art Gallery's 2017 DOME Pop-Up series

Haley Ritchie/Metro

Performer and Carleton professor Jesse Stewart rocks out on an xylophone made of books inside Carleton University library. Stewart's January 23 performance was part of the Carleton University Art Gallery's 2017 DOME Pop-Up series

Carleton students were invited to literally hit the books Monday as professor Jesse Stewart filled the library with the sound of the bibliophone – an instrument created from old books.

The music turned heads inside the library, where students and staff filtered in and out of a dome tent set up in the lobby. Inside participants were handed drum sticks and invited to chime in by tapping out rhythms on an assortment of titles.

In the past, Jesse Stewart has also given concerts involving glass, steel containers, saw blades, canoe paddles, sea shells, stones and ice.

“Sometimes this work is described as sound art,” he said. “Other people might understand it as music. Doesn’t really matter to me what people call it, but rather I’m just happy and thankful to have opportunities to do this and to share it with other people who I hope will be interested in it.”

The performance series was commissioned by the Carleton University Art Gallery.

“In many ways I think of this work as interactive art installations as much as they are sound installations,” said gallery director Sandra Dyck.

The 50-or-so books which composed the instrument were all Carleton library volumes slated for disposal.

The books varied in age, genre and surprisingly – in sound. An old college edition of Webster’s Dictionary and Mark Bourrie’s “The Fog of War” were praised by the drummers as having the best tones.

“Old dictionaries seem to sound particularly good, which I think maybe relates to the thickness of the book, but maybe also, dictionaries tend to be printed on a thinner paper, so maybe that has an effect, I’m not sure,” theorized Stewart. “I think also the rigidity and thickness of the cover, size probably also has some kind of impact there. So all of these factors combine and each one sounds quite unique in combination.”

– With files from Adam Kveton

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