And the beat goes on

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Theile’s “Musical Cabinet”.

Theile’s “Musical Cabinet”.

Though he claims to not have a musical bone in his body, Michael Thiele has been making and selling wooden art drums and other percussion pieces for 43 years. 

Rosewood, wenge and black palm 12-key drum.

Rosewood, wenge and black palm 12-key drum.

“I have no musical background, I just hear compositionally. It’s an odd thing for me. My whole family is musical. My daughter sings, my two sons play music and my wife teaches piano. I am the black sheep of the family but it’s my passion and shows up in my work. I go in at 5 a.m. each day and work at it,” says the owner of Hardwood Music Co. in Flagstaff, Ariz. 

The drums, fabricated with exotic woods, can be found in galleries and music stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. Thiele was a teacher when he made his first drum in the early 70s. He became a full-time maker in 1974, selling through art shows in the western states. He added drum-themed furniture pieces about eight years ago, available on a commission basis. They sell for $7,000 to $35,000. 

Rosewood, ebony and wenge trapezoid table.

Rosewood, ebony and wenge trapezoid table.

“Furniture is only a small percentage of what I do,” says Theile. “I decided to manifest the drums into tabletops and other pieces. Most of the pieces are coffee tables. Not all are, but I always take a coffee table to an art show.” 

While the furniture is an extension of the small drum concept, it is built much differently. Thiele says he must work to isolate the music from the structure of the furniture so that the vibration from the sounds doesn’t pass through the structures. 

Rosewood and spalted maple 12-key cartography drum.

Rosewood and spalted maple 12-key cartography drum.

His son Joah has joined him in exploring and developing new designs. To date, they have over 40 designs and 200 different melodic tunings. 

Contact: Hardwood Music Co., P.O. Box 2655, Flagstaff, AZ 86003. Tel: 928-522-0211. www.hardwoodmusiccompany.com  

This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue.

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