For Your Friday - The Spoon Box by The Books

Bassam Tariq is a Boing Boing guestblogger who is the co-author of 30 Mosques. A blog celebrating the NYC mosques during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He lives in Harlem, NY.

For your Friday, here is a nice video of a spoon box making music. How does the spoon box you work you ask? Well, since it's made by The Books, we'll let them answer it:
This will take a little bit of explaining. I built this prototype of the Spoonbox out of wood, plexiglass, zinc plates, measuring spoons, and closeout radioshack parts. It hooks up to a CD player and small amplifier which cause the spoons to dance. There are small speakers behind the spoons that move in response to the sounds on the CD which I carefully composed using low frequency sine waves and kitchen sounds. The speakers, in turn, blow small puffs of air into the spoons which cause them to bounce/vibrate in rhythmic patterns. It really must be seen to be understood, but this video might give you some sense of what it does.
I just got off the phone with Nick Zammuto, 1/2 of The Books, and will be sharing with you our discussion this weekend. The Books are one of the most important bands of this decade and come this weekend, I will try my best to convince you why.

Until then, here are two tracks from their LPs. Tokyo and That Right Aint Shit both can be found on The Lemon of Pink, released in 2003. Happy Listening and Happy Friday.


  1. As a long-time fan of the books (and hey, be sure to mention the excellent Prefuse 73 vs Books album!), I can only say that coverage of them is great… but the bigger, more important question (especially if you are talking to them) is _when_ is a new album forthcoming? These guys are bonkers, and make some of the most unique and robust music around… certainly stuff with a ‘makers’ spirit in sound. So… new stuff… please?

  2. I cannot wait to get home so i can actually listen to this =) The Books make me happy. The Lemon of Pink is great but could not stop playing Lost and Safe.

  3. I love love LOVE The books. Their music is pure ear candy and truly inspired.

    I am a long time practitioner of weird sampling and ‘found sound’ sort of chicanery, and these guys are THE kings. They do not get the credit they deserve – it seems that they remain in relative obscurity for most.

    I agree with poster one, too – the Prefuse 73 Reads The Books or whatever it’s officially called is also tres excellent. Trippy as hell.

    Wonderful video – thanks for that!!

  4. Amazing video!!

    The sound was very much like a Matthew Herbert composition or perhaps even Múm. I love found object percussion & obviously need to pay more attention to newer releases.

    Cheers for the heads up, you guys are giving Metzger a run for best guest bloggers ever.

  5. I conversed briefly with Nick back in 2000, shortly after he released his Solutiore of Stareau 3cd album. He’s long been into sampling acoustic sounds, created often in very odd ways (Solutiore of Stareau is largely pops and tones created from scratching vinyl and sampling it, and is very minimalist). I think getting involved with Paul DeJong was one of the best things to happen to him, though, because it widened the palette for both artists significantly. For “Lost and Safe,” there are interviews noting that they have all of their samples categorized by note, making it much easier to construct melodic and musical bits without resorting to just lifting a full line. Personally, I find their work with acoustic instruments the most intriguing element of their music, because the “emphasis on imperfection” that Nick was happy to put in the forefront in his early career is lovely with acoustic instruments. Hearing a cello that’s not exactly played right (for example) but still rearranged and sequenced to work perfectly within the overall song, is what makes them stand out to me.

  6. Hooray, the Books have come to Boingboing! First song of theirs I ever heard was “If Not Now, Whenever,” and it’s still my favorite. They’re awesome in concert, too.

  7. wow! they’re new to me, and i’m LOVING the music! thank you, Bassam, for yet another post showing me something i’d never seen, or teaching me something i never knew (the two things i can always count on BB to do).

  8. Thanks for posting this; the video is wonderful. Lost and safe was my introduction to the world of aleatoric music, and has become one of my favourite albums. The music of The Books deserves far wider coverage and if anyone reading this hasn’t given their stuff a listen I really recommend that you do. I’ve managed to idenify some of the recordings used on Lost and Safe (which range from the BBC’s Raymond Baxter trying to describe the first transatlantic satellite broadcast and a befuddled reporter encountering Salvador Dali to W H Auden reading some of his poetry) but I’d love to see their catalogue!

    Incidentally, Nick Zammuto was also co-creator of Bring me the head of Philip K Dick which I caught on BBC radio recently.

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