Sounds of Music

How can a love of carpentry and music
be combined to become a labor of love? Well, it takes some creative thinking,
but Peter Isacowitz does not lack creativity. A former South African, Pete
now lives in Rosh Pina, a small mountainside town of winding cobblestoned
paths that was first settled a hundred years ago. It is here, at Woodsong,
that Pete creates “musical furniture” and musical instruments inspired by
cultures around the world.

Pete playing the didgeridoo
We’ll let Pete tell you in his own
words how this all came about.

“How did I get into all this stuff?
Ever since I was a kid, I was moved by music, and have played guitar and
harmonica since age twelve. Some of my early, strong memories were of going
with my parents to watch tribal dances on the gold mines near Johannesburg.
I was totally taken by the music, dance and the instruments, especially
the marimbas. All my adult life I’ve been interested in musical instruments
and have run after information wherever I could find it.”

“When I came on Aliyah in 1979, I
did a retraining course in cabinet making and carpentry, which greatly improved
my woodworking skills. So building musical instruments became a serious
hobby, which occupied every bit of my spare time.”

“I started experimenting with doorharps
about 15 years ago, giving them to friends and family as gifts. My first
serious instrument was an electric base guitar, and then a series of Celtic
Later, I began experimenting with xylophones and marimbas.

Doorharp in the shape of

my 13 years on kibbutz, I was always collecting and storing wood from all
kinds of sources. From discarded crates and pallets, to logs of avocado
and apple wood, pruned from trees in the orchards. So, with all the wood
I had, I started playing around with weird ideas I’d had in my head for
years, namely, furniture and decorative items, which could also play music.
I was very moved by a poem I read in the introduction to a book on guitar-making.”

I was alive in the forest

I was cut by the cruel axe

In life I was silent

In death I sweetly sing.

“In fact, the name “Woodsong” was
very much inspired by the concept of bringing old wood back to life and
helping it to sing.


I forgot to mention
the didgeridoo, an ancient Australian Aboriginal wind instrument,
whose sounds very much invoke prehistoric times. I first heard the didgeridoo
years ago, on seeing the Australian movie, “The Last Wave”, and was mesmerized
by its haunting sound. I started experimenting with my own versions, using
plastic irrigation pipes, and eventually worked out techniques for making
them out of wood.

I try to give my instruments a warm,
friendly feeling, and people can participate in a hands-on guided musical
tour, which includes a talk and a demonstration on the instruments.”

Text by J. Isaacson.
Photos by permission of Woodsong.


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