“It was the 1970s so everyone was less paranoid,” says Sxip (pronounced Skip). “We were on a class trip and spotted the hobo – a gentleman who rode the railways – and asked if we could talk to him. He looked me right in the eye and said he had made his own musical instrument.”
The hobo had fashioned something he could ‘twang’ while holding it in his teeth from an aerosol can lid and fishing line. “In my brain I registered ‘he’s made something’ and ‘he’s made music’. Many years later I can call this my light-bulb moment,” Sxip says.
“You make something, music, for your immediate community with the materials immediately around you. Folk music is seen as static and unchanging but it’s always been innovative This realisation has given me an intellectual base on how to approach materials for music.
“There’s a literary tradition of written music and a physical tradition of folk music.”
Currently working on an orchestral dance piece for MIT, Sxip admits his priorities have shifted with the arrival of his son Theolonius, now 4 months and in Tauranga with him and his wife, and collaborator, Coco Karol, a professional dancer.
“I look up and he’s watching me and then he smiles – it’s messing up my workflow,” Sxip laughs.
Renowned for his use of found objects as musical instruments – and for making his own instruments – Sxip was studying physics when he turned to music fulltime after running variety shows in Denver and then New York.
“This Limbo circus is like another variety show in many ways.”
Sxip is musical director for the circus-cabaret ‘Limbo’ but is he also the ringmaster? “Hmm, maybe a spiritual ringmaster,” he says. “All the characters are caught in Limbo and I’m the angel who is challenging them and encouraging them.”
His music for the show, performed live, always has some improvisation so the music and performers match one another. “When you can fuse the action and the music, that’s success.”
- Article written by Sandra Simpson