Pellegrino's Waterphone


This auction is for a genuine Waterphone built for me by Richard Waters in 1982 at his countryside place outside of Sebastopol, California. It has a 9 inch diameter at its base and stands 13 inches tall which makes it especially unusual since the units he offers on his site today have other dimensions and do not include this size. A Bass Bow and Rosin are included with this item. It comes from the studios of Ron Pellegrino, composer and pioneer in the electronic arts of sound and light -

In 1982 Richard and I were playing together in a group called SEAMS, the Sonoma Electro-Acoustic Music Society - Richard on Waterphones, a wizard on prepared piano, a vocalist using extended vocal techniques, and I with my synthesizer road set ( Our North Bay group was in the tradition of the San Francisco Bay Area Free Music scene which flourished in the 1970s and early 1980s. Our music was created in a real time compositional process rooted in a moment-to-moment conversational progression often growing out of the musings of one or another member of the group. We gave quite a few concerts in the North Bay but the weekly rehearsal/gatherings were particularly memorable because they involved a variety of invited guests playing all sorts of instruments in highly personal styles thus bringing other perspectives to the mix that helped create hours of musically high times.

I loved the sound of the Waterphone so I asked Richard to build one for me. The scene is clearly etched in my memory. One foggy morning I drove from my place in Petaluma to Richard's place outside of Sebastopol. As I arrived the fog was lifting and in the filtered sunlight Richard could be seen making his way up a hill to his workshop with a blowtorch in his hand and faceshield flipped up over his head. Then in a seemingly slightly crazed passion (artistic inspiration I'm certain) he started welding the pieces together to create the sound sculpture that you see in the photos here. Definitely an instrument with an aura.

It was difficult for me to choose an eBay category for this piece because although it's a very beautiful sculpture I didn't like the idea of someone just approaching it as visual art and not playing it like the musical instrument it is. My experience with percussionists is that, as musicians, they are most open to what's available in the acoustic sound world. So after your gig put it on a mantel or a shelf or in the center of your dining room table so you can enjoy it visually too.

If you do not know of this instrument I strongly recommend that you visit Richard's site - The following quotations are from his site:

"Waterphones are in fact stainless steel and bronze monolithic, one-of-a-kind, acoustic, tonal-friction instruments that utilize water in the interior of their resonators to bend tones and create water echos.In the world family of musical instruments the Waterphone is between a Tibetian Water Drum, an African Kalimba (thumb piano) and a 16th century Peg or Nail Violin. Each Waterphone is custom made using a hot metal process developed over the past 40 years. The tonal rods are tuned to a combination of micro-tonal and diatonic relationships presented in two distinct but intergrated scales having both even and uneven increments."

"The Waterphone was invented and is patented by Richard Waters (pat.#3896696). Each instrument is unique and made to order. Richard personally makes, tunes, signs and dates each Waterphone. The sound of the Waterphone has been compared to the haunting melodies of the Humpback Whale and voices from inner/outer space. Waterphones have been described as acoustic synthesizers, Waterharps, a musical “Aladdin's Lamp”, and “Whalephones”"

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