Nunut, Jordi Colobrans, MDMB 12607 (Fotografia: Esther Fernández)

Let’s talk about paper, but we don’t mean sheet music

The image that illustrates the series “Words and music: rock, paper, scissors”, took a crinkled score as its “paper”, which symbolizes the combination of music and poetry. It’s any old printed sheet music, without any intention of showing who composed it, because we’d like to talk about paper as a musical element.

A sheet of cellulose fibres, even the simplest one, could become a whistle. All you need to do is grab a small piece of paper and, by stretching it tight, make it vibrate very close to your lips to produce a high-pitched sound. There’s also the nunut, which is a type of Kazoo. It’s a tube stoppered on one end with a knot from the plant it’s made from; there’s an opening in the middle of the tube, and when a piece of onionskin paper or cigarette paper is fastened on the other end with a string or rubber band it resonates when blown through. (A very thin plastic bag can also be used, although that’s not the most ecological of options).

Paper can also be found in the bellows of several instruments, for example, harmoniums, organs, and accordions, or concertinas are among some examples of mechanical instruments that, in addition to the paper in the bellows, have a strip of perforated paper that produces the sound.

We’ve highlighted in the sound collection, the entire set of recording systems preserved on paper: perforated tapes, perforated discs, player piano rolls and postcard records, all with a great variety of sizes and lengths. You can also see how paper can also be crafted as speakers to one degree of intricacy or another for mobile phones.

Concertina automàtica, MDMB 611 (Fotografia: Gabriel Serra)

And now for the all-time great: a cardboard guitar. Antonio de Torres showed with one that the most important thing for a guitar and its sonority was the soundboard and its shape. He did so by building a guitar from just cardboard backing and strips, and a spruce soundboard.


Guitarra de cartó, Antonio de Torres, MDMB 625 (Fotografia: Eduard Selva)

It might not have anything to do (or maybe it has everything to do) with this, but we’ve seen a violin made with origami.

Finally, we've added a soundtrack to the subject: next year there will be many celebrations of Beethoven, who copied the famous theme from a song by La Trinca, and went like this: “pa-per pa-peeeeeer, pa-per pa-peeeeeer”, or the well-known “It’s only a paper moon” by Nat King Cole...