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CLONK, GLUG, GURGLE and SPLOOSH! This is the noise of Shishi Odoshi. Scare deer in Japan. A haiku is a fitting introduction to the simple instrument that is the Shishi Odoshi, or Japanese deer scarer. Consisting of running water, a long bamboo collection tube and a pivot, the instrument is an elegant demonstration of physics from a time before Newtonian Mechanics had begun to approach the theories of gravity and momentum.
The long hollowed out bamboo tube is placed on a pivot device. The mouth of the tube is placed under a source of running water at an angle to vertical. The aim of this contraption is to scare deer, and make a constant, recurring noise in the garden or landscape to remind people of the passing of time, and the flowing of water in nature. As the water fills up the hollow tube, the centre of gravity of the tube changes. Eventually there is enough water in the tube to cause it to tip over, and so it does. The water pours out of the tube into a pond or stream, and makes a splashing noise. As it does so, the bamboo pipe hits a rock or piece of bamboo, making a clonk noise. The noise of the water emptying out of the tube goes 'Glug, Gurgle!' and the pipe, now bottom heavy again, tips back up, clattering on branches, wind chimes, and eventually another hollow piece of bamboo at the base, making a third 'clunk' noise.
Where it is used:
When used carefully, or in series, the result can be quite fantastic. The principle behind the world famous 'Bucket Fountain' on Cuba Street in Wellington, NZ is the same that operates with the Shishi Odoshi, though with a bit more splashing and slightly less rigid formality. The appropriate formal setting for a Shishi Odoshi is that of an extensively cultivated Japanese Zen Garden, complete with raked sand, bonsai sculpture and small pond. Unlike the Chinese Garden, which tends to incorporate the music of water trickling down rocks, the Japanese Garden employs a more mechanical, humanistic process of harnessing water to power human contrivances in the pursuit of auditory enhancement of a landscape.
Easy to build:
Building a Shishi Odoshi is a simple task, and instructions can be found on the internet. By sticking with the measurements provided in a suitable plan, the functioning of the instrument is guaranteed. The mathematics to calculate the placement of the pivot, the angle for the pipe to sit on at rest, and the correct length of pipe to produce a satisfying 'Clunk' at an enjoyable and resonant pitch have already been done. As the pipe diameter increases, the sound becomes fuller and mellower. With thin pipes the sound will make clink and clattery noises.
The sound of Shishi Odoshi:
Suitable pipe will have a pleasant natural tone, be strong and able to withstand repeated impact with a hard surface, be easily workable and aesthetically pleasing. Failure to incorporate all of these elements will lead to a working demonstration of principle that fails to encompass all of the proper aspects of the Shishi Odoshi. Its use as an expression of the human relationship with the natural system is highly significant to its original use, and should be foremost in the thoughts of the builder.
Often, if a source of running water is not available directly, it can be pumped to the top of the tube. This is a suitable reflection of the nature of modern landscapes, in that they are highly engineered hyper real human spaces, complete with plumbing and electricity. Though a departure from the traditional system of redirected rainfall, the modern mutation of the Shishi Odoshi will still introduce an aspect of Japanese influence into your life.