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Symphony of the tinsmith, Malaysia

Join us in Malaysia today, to hear the traditional handicrafts of a tinsmith, as recorded by Connie Lim Keh Nie, who writes:

“Listening to various pitches from hammer and tongs emanating from the tinsmith shops along China Street, clicking and clacking with rhythm, the tins were solely handcrafted.

“There are no mechanized machines used; only the bare hands of the tinsmith. He uses his thumbs to bend the metal little by little while placed on the bean and began to hammer the edge gently.

“Amidst the hubbub of a busy commercial area, the tinsmith customizing the order with meticulous efficiency, plying well-honed craftsmanship to meet the demands for customized household tinware like pots and pans as well as kitchen utensils.

“The tinsmith is left in the vicinity of China Street with the clanging sound of meter were drowned by the sounds of the bustling city of Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.”

City version:

The reimagined version started out by mapping a drum pattern, against which samples and individual hits from the tinsmith’s tools were placed alongside individual beats to give a skeleton rhythm – this drum track was then removed, leaving the tinsmith to generate the beats for the track with just a minor percussive accompaniment.

The bulk of the track is made up of five interlacing patterns from a Buchla Easel, the arpeggios of which represent the constant movement of the tinsmiths as they work – the different layers are to represent the interlacing of different type of percussive strike from the tinsmiths’ tool overlapping.

The overall effect is a both a tribute to the industry of the workers, but also a warning sign that traditional handicrafts such as this are under threat from automation as we move further into the 21st century.

Memory version: