Rough Music and Meat Cleavers

Rough Music and Meat Cleavers

This blog shifts between looking at noise and noise pollution, and sound. Today, depending on how you view that dichotomy, we are looking at sound.

A chance encounter yesterday in the grocery store led me to the content of this post. My friend Jim told me he had heard about  meat cleaver music on CBC’s “As It Happens”. Intrigued, I went to find out more. (You can link to the AIH interview here. )

And thus I discovered the work of Nathaniel Mann. (Here is a link to his website.)


What is meat cleaver music? Mann is the man behind this idea. One day he noticed that his grandfather’s meat cleaver made a nice little ping when hit. (You can hear this sound at 2:25 in the AIH interview link above.) So he began experimenting with making music with the cleaver and a block of wood. You can see him performing here, and here.

On further research, he discovered that meat cleavers (and other kitchen utensils) had been used 300 years ago in Suffolk by people in the towns to ‘call out’ the bad behaviours of local folk. (This ‘calling out’ was known as ‘rough music’. This idea of ‘rough music’ is very much like carivari, the social protest noise discussed in this previous post.)


Here is a teaser trailer for his cleaver performance, featuring 12 tuned meat cleavers, March 29, 2014, in Oxford, England.


And here is Mr. Mann and the rest of The Dead Rat Orchestra, each with a bronze cleaver!

If anyone attended their performance in Oxford last night, let us know what it was like!

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One Response to Rough Music and Meat Cleavers

  1. Hello! Thanks for your interest. There is fantastic write-up of the Rough Music event here:

    Photos, videos and more – all to come.

    Follow me on twitter: @animateddog for updates.


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