The Stylophone is the tiny synthesizer most famously used by David Bowie on "Space Oddity." First invented in 1967, its played by touching a built-in stylus to the metal keyboard. Still readily available, the instrument has become a cult favorite among experimental musicians. For some wonderful contemporary Stylophone music, I recommend the new album Stylophoinika by the Kingston University Stylophone Orchestra. Listen above. The leader of the orchestra is musician, writer, and professor Leah Kardos who directs the university's Visconti Studio, a recording and research facility co-founded with esteemed Bowie producer Tony Visconti. From Bandcamp:
Through legendary producer Tony Visconti, Leah was introduced to Stylophone manufacturer Dubreq, who donated a collection of new and vintage instruments to Visconti Studio's analogue instrument archive, based at the University. At the sight of a car boot full of Stylophones, Leah found herself wondering aloud if a musical ensemble using the unique electronic instruments might be possible.
A notice went up, and a handful of intrepid students showed up to a first rehearsal.
Though the musical palette of the Stylophone initially appeared limited, its restrictions quickly inspired creativity and ingenuity.
With the orchestra made up of current and ex students, plus staff from across the University, the instantly recognisable sound of the original Stylophone has been augmented by the full range of Dubreq instruments, mixed in with Theremin, Omnichord and Volca sequencers, as well as the members' collective voices.