BLACK MOON LILITH
A Double-Sided Third-Bridge Non-Resonant Amplified Zither built by John C. L. Jansen specifically for The Honourable Elizabeth A. Baker
six feet, two inches
parallel double humbucker
Each of the twelve strings can be tuned up to middle-C before snapping becomes a risk
There are six strings on each side it is suggested tuning one side for active play and the other for resonant effect and parallel processing
The addition of a third-bridge creates an instrument that behaves like a massive monochord and allows the player to access overtones and harmonics that are normally difficult to achieve on a conventional single bridge instrument. The addition of a third-bridge also allows for much longer sustain once a string is active than a guitar or cello, which makes the instrument perfect for creating evolving ambient textures.
Artists known for their use and/or creation of third-bridge instruments include Glenn Branca, Hans Reichel, and Sonic Youth.
Black Moon Lilith builds on the Glen Branca design of six strings and a third-bridge on a long plank of wood but is double-sided to prevent the bowing fate of the original Branca “harmonics guitars” the string tension on either side of the wood pulls against each other holding the wood straight.
Because each side of the instrument has its own dedicated pickup parallel processing between the dominate playing side and a passive resonant side or the secondary playing side is possible.
The harmonic side of the instrument which is why it makes sense that Branca iterations of third-bridge instruments are called harmonics guitars operates as such, placing a finger or slide over the harmonic point bowing plucking sounds the specific harmonic of the fundamental of the string. Lower harmonics are easier to sound and higher harmonics are more difficult.
When the front side is played with mallets the harmonic sounds without the need of a finger or slide on the harmonic point.
The back side of the instrument is activated when the front side is played and sustains beyond the time of the front side. To mute the instrument one touches the back side of the instrument not the front and the ring of the back side is fairly substantial compared to a traditional string instrument because of the significant length of the string.
Alternative playing options include playing with a slide on the back side of the bridge which has an effect similar to playing a slide guitar. Glissandos with glass, metal, or bone slides are possible on the back side of the bridge.
Black Moon Lilith is the only existent version of a double-sided third-bridge non-resonant amplified zither in the world and as such, there is no traditional method for playing and the scope expands underneath Elizabeth’s hands with each performance.
Below are a list of objects/ideas for extended techniques that have become staples in Elizabeth’s playing of Black Moon Lilith:
- Violin or Cello Bow
- Mallets – Yarn, Rubber, Brass
- Guitar Slides – Glass, Bone, Steel
- Plectrums – Plastic, Felt
- Singing/Speaking into Pickups
Looking to write for Lilith or propose a collaboration including live performances or recording projects? Reach out to Elizabeth via email or schedule an appointment using the booking page. Below is a PDF guide for composers to get started on your journey of writing for Lilith.
THE LUTHIER – JOHN C.L. JANSEN
John C.L. Jansen is active as a composer, multi-instrumentalist, experimental luthier, author, recording engineer, and teacher of music theory, currently based in Takoma Park, Maryland.
As an instrument builder, John invented a 3rd bridge instrument called the tetrachord, a 9 ft amplified zither which allows the user to isolate string partials. He is also a builder of daxophones, a friction idiophone invented by Hans Reichel.
In 2017/18, John worked with Bang On a Can to restore Glenn Branca’s Movement Within, for an ensemble of original instruments tuned to Branca’s seven-octave overtone tuning. He worked directly with the original instruments and samples to bring the work back to life, where it was performed live on WNYC’s New Sounds.