Worldbuilding: Pigeon House Music

When I started creating my world, I wanted an alien feel to it. I wanted readers to believe that they were in a world that was somewhat familiar, but had a sense of otherness. Because music influenced my original worldbuilding effort, it was the first thing I set out to give the world its foreign flavor.

I didn’t have to invent instruments. I found so many odd instruments that are already out there. Some of them were nearly extinct ancient instruments that got replaced by something more modern. Many of them were inventions of eccentric artists. But all of them were real creations that I stumbled upon.

The first musician I discovered was Andy Graham. He is extremely creative with inventions and mixing sounds. I especially loved his working the didjeridoo and drums. Here is his Dijbass in action.


My favorite of his instruments was his Slaperoo. I thought it had a great sound and looked like something that might exist in a magical world. The Slaperoo comes in a number of shapes and sizes and they are all over my world as substitutes for any stringed bass instrument.

The Slaperoo inspired me to find other easy to play instruments that would make substitutes for bass or guitar, and give a low tech punk or metal sound. The djent stick is perfect for this. It goes by many names. In the late 19th and early 20th century in the US, it was called the Diddley Bow. Les Claypool calls his the Whamola.

The mages is my world love music, but due to the brain damage that gives them magical talent, few of them can play any complicated instruments. Most of them lack the concentration needed to master and instrument and many of them are profoundly dyslexic, and cannot learn to read music. I wanted to give them plenty of instruments that were easy to play — and loud.

But a few mages can play more traditional and complex instruments. I looked for rare and extinct musical toys for these folk. I loved the look of the bass balalaika. I also love the guy who plays it with an amp. That’s perfect! and I could see the nyckelharpa  as a potential violin substitute. The serpent is a great brass instrument covered with snakeskin. The harp guitar is a folk instrument in Canada, but it never got popular in our world. 

Alex Ferris has not only created hundreds of musical instruments, he’s the creator of the Anarchestra. He takes several of his inventions, puts them together in a single installation and then tunes them in such a way that anyone can play them and they make music together. Even people with no musical training can jam.

Ken Butler is another favorite artist of mine. He creates instruments out of things others have lost or thrown away. He’s created hundreds of musical instruments. I think he perfectly embodies what I think of when I imagine a Mage in my world. 


I found many art installations that were giant musical instruments, sometimes played by people, but many were simply played by by the wind or he water. The way my magic system works combined with the wild nature and creativity of many mages inspired me to put musical buildings and sculptures throughout the main city. Here is the roving music box. The Earth Harp is massive. I had to include the pyrophone. My main character is a pyromancer and he’d love a giant instrument powered by fire. There’s a guy traveling around Australia playing all of the fences.

 There are so many more instruments I’d love to share. This is only a fraction of what I’ve discovered. I have hundreds of pins on my Pinterest board dedicated to rare and unusual musical instruments now.

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