CleanOut Kazoo King, Orchestral Kazoo

1972, modified in 2013. Stack-laminated and carved Freijo, found cast-iron stove door. Gaboon ebony, copper amplifier. 10"l x 5"d. Fits precisely inside Clean Out Kazoo King (1972) on a special mount.

It was on or about 1972 that I found a cast iron door to what I presume was a stove of some sort. The oval door had two knuckles that were drilled for hinge pins and proudly displayed the message on the front "Clean Out Kazoo King." Seeing that this was a somewhat cryptic message that read like a sign at a protest march, I decided to create a cabinet that would use it as its door and therefore give it a new context. I then made a small anthropomorphic vessel with stack-laminated and carved Freijo, a South American hardwood that I had a small quantity of. The problem was that its interior was an empty space that I never had any intention to fill. My take was that someone had taken the message on the door to heart and it would remain empty. However, as the years passed, it became clear that it was little more than another thing to dust, move, store or otherwise marginalize and that it needed more purpose for it to survive.


From the artist

When 2013 rolled around and I had to fill out a gallery space for a show in Taipei, Taiwan, I pulled it out of storage and cleaned it up in preparation for shipping it along with 55 other pieces. I was forced to dig a little deeper as to why I had made it in the first place and came to clarify the direction of its final function. What else could it be other than a storage cabinet for kazoos? It was then that I did my research into what the history of this simple instrument was. I found that from its development and early manufacture in the late 1800s, it was the only truly american instrument. An African American by the name of Alabama Vest, and German clockmaker, Thaddeus Von Klegg collaborated to create the first recorded model in 1852. It was not unlike the modern instrument in design and function. Currently, there are only two domestic manufacturers in the US, one of which is in Eden, NY that still uses the circa 1912 machinery made in Buffalo, NY to produce the lowly kazoo. The instrument is a proud member of the membranophone family of instruments.

As a newly minted enthusiast of the kazoo, I came to understand that though the shape of the basic instrument remained the same, decorative non-functional additions have been made to resemble other traditional instruments such as the trombone, trumpet and french horn. That was not good enough for me so I then decided that the lowly kazoo needed to be elevated to greater status by creating an orchestral model, in fact the Concert Grand version of kazoo. I designed and built a turned Gaboon Ebony kazoo with three resonators which can have different membranes exchangeable for different tonal effect. It is equipped with a copper bell to direct the sound forward and now resides inside Clean Out Kazoo King on a custom mount. Although it will be hard to play with one's tongue in one’s cheek, it is not impossible.