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About Kim Gravelle

[Pronounciation of "Gravelle": start saying "gravitate" and end with "el". Grav-elle.]

Kim Gravelle is a Canadian musician, artist, and frequent maker of her own musical instruments.

For years, Kim Gravelle has been creating her own musical instruments out of curiosity and "hearing a sound I haven't heard". Her instruments are not available commercially, they are hers alone, and getting around to actually play them is one of her biggest dreams.

Looking back, it is possible to see the seeds of sound exploration in her childhood, from learning to do silly things such as whistle and hum/sing at the same time, to quietly questioning the conventions of western music. "It was one of my early piano lessons, and my teacher was showing me what dissonance was. She said, 'Do you hear that, notes right next to each other don't sound nice.' Of course, she was teaching me the basic conventions and there is much use of dissonance in classical music, but in that moment, listening to the notes buzz next to each other, I was thinking that I wasn't sure, that I thought I liked the sound. This stuck with me, and gave me the feeling that there was always something going on with sound underneath all those notes."

These two things together definitely point to Gravelle's use of vocalizations with her flute playing.

She would also play avant-garde jazz on the piano when she was supposed to be practicing her concerveratory classics. "I didn't know what it was, but I had heard it on TVOntario, and I would just play. This wasn't just farting around, this was playing, and noticing different kinds of relationships between notes and especially time. I didn't even know if it was called music."

Kim began creating musical instruments in university, beginning with violin-type instruments. After some time, she changed to flutes because of their basic simplicity. On a road trip with a violin, she befriended a young woman with a backpacker guitar and thought she'd like to have an instrument that would never need tuning or parts that needed replacing, so she went and bought a very nice $100 plastic low-whistle (an Irish whistle, but much larger and lower in pitch). Within weeks, curiosity drove her to modify it, bit by bit, and then learn to play what was essentially a new flute each time, just to see what would happen. She discovered changes in the tone, tuning, playability, that would set her off on a path of further curiosity.

The most intreaguing thing about flutes is how a note can swell into existance from silence, and fall back into silence. Every other instrument requires a certain amount of energy, a certain volume, even if small, to sound at all. There is always a tiny gap between sound and silence. With flutes, there is no gap. With skill, the sounds can come from the gentlest breaths.

Flutes, also, are both incredibly simple, and yet can be very complex. This isn't about the mechanics of a flute with keys, or even strings such as her own, but the internal structure. So much about what is going on inside of the flute, in the bore and at the mouthpiece, has to do with how the flute plays and is involved in crafting a fine instrument with the characteristics desired by the player. And yet the lovely thing is that even crummy flutes can sound lovely.

Gravelle began her path just out of curiosity, yet it lead to her spending vast amounts of time studying the accoustics of flutes from around the world. She set aside performing and spent and inordinate amount of time "in the woodshed", developing both her instruments and the accompanying techniques. An instrument does not exist as a musical object without technique, therefore an instrument cannot be developed without techniques that don't exist. They go together in development.

She has made many flutes and other instruments for her own playing, ever in search of a new discovery. With these and other instruments she plays solo performances, accompanies yoga classes, massage, accupuncture, etc. She has also played with experimental music collectives and much "wilder" styles. in essence, her greatest interest is in sound.

Kim's solo performance style is most notably meditative. The devotion to instrument creation has been for the purpose of creating a collection of instruments which can be played along side each other to maintain expressivity and interest over the span of a performance.