Robin Ryan in conversation with Mark Cain: Kernels of Discovery

Original musical instruments and acoustic sound designs


  • Robin Ann Ryan Edith Cowan University
  • Mark Bradley Cain



sound discovery, wind instrument construction, environment, sustainability, recycled material


In contributing to the practice and production of Perth’s vibrant music scene since the 1980s, the Western Australian musician, inventor and instrument-maker Mark Cain (b. 1955) has remained true to a non-commercial instinct to construct wind instruments from discarded PVC piping and, more recently, glove pipes, compressed-air panpipes and bottle reedpipes. In dialogue with Robin Ryan, Cain demystifies the cul-de-sacs and tangents associated with the design and manufacture of instruments and sound gardens made from the simplest of natural and recycled materials. Futuristically, his largely whimsical creations prefigure a musical soundscape that will increasingly depend on locally made, sustainable instruments. In providing common ground for discursive mediation between performance-based and research-based constructs of environment, this conversation strengthens Appadurai’s (1986) notion that ‘Instruments are social things with histories and careers … not what they are made to be, but what they become as they circulate and mutate’.

Author Biography

Robin Ann Ryan, Edith Cowan University

Robin Ryan is an eco-/ethno-musicologist researching the sustainability of indigenous musical instruments and popular musical traditions within Australia. She was an advisor to Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia (Currency Press, 2003) while a Research Fellow at Macquarie University, Sydney.


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How to Cite

Ryan, R., & Cain, M. (2016). Robin Ryan in conversation with Mark Cain: Kernels of Discovery: Original musical instruments and acoustic sound designs. Perfect Beat, 17(1), 25–51.