Making the Bugle

Making the Bugle

The making of the bugle is the most complex part of the project. The metal has to be produced at a specialist foundry so when the brass badges, buttons, buckles, bullet cartridges, shell cases and other brass objects are melted along with the copper and zinc to form the billet of metal for rolling into the brass sheet, the metallurgy is 100% correct. Research has identified a UK foundry which has the metallurgical capability to produce the correct brass. Each brass item is checked for its metal composition before use in the mix.

Once the brass billet is formed it has to be rolled to a specific width and thickness for making musical instruments. So far in my researches I have found only one rolling mill in the UK and this is a high-volume mill. Negotiations are needed to see if this mill will take one billet and roll it as part of a larger rolling of other similar brass billets. If it can't be managed, we will try mills abroad. There are brass rolling mills in Germany and USA and (as seen on YouTube) an older type of rolling mill in India where the red-hot sheets of brass are manoeuvred by staff using long metal rods. It is how the work used to be carried out in the UK.

After the metal is rolled it is cut into sheets, and is then ready to be made into a bugle. A number of bugle makers have been identified who can make bugles for the project. The brass sheet can also be used for other brass instruments. Only instrument makers who make instruments that work properly will be used. There are countries that offer services to make musical instruments vastly cheaper than the UK. The problem is that the instruments may look acceptable but may not be very good or even poor in terms of sound. Every instrument made in this project has to be capable of the highest sound quality and performance.

If the technical side of making the brass sheet specially is not possible in the timescale needed for the filming and making the installation, the bugle can still be made from sheets of "cartridge brass". This is the 70/30 (copper to zinc ratio) brass that is used for musical instruments and also the manufacture of modern bullet cartridges and shell cases, so the connection to war and conflict will be maintained. Research for having special metal made won't stop and eventually future bugles and other brass instruments will contain the special objects.

The bugle will have a protective carrying case. This will be a hard case with an interior satin lining. The case and the lining will be mid to light grey in colour, to be neutral. Each case will have embossed lettering with the project title and the nature of the objects contained within the instrument's metal, so that wherever the instrument travels it will be possible to see its provenance and purpose.

The final part of the physical work is the cord which is wound around the bugle where it is held and has tassels, as in the bugle drawing on the Home Page. It is intended, if possible, to have the cord made from, or with, human hair, to echo the use of human hair by the Nazis in hair yarn that was used in socks for U-Boat crews, felt boots for railway workers and the padding for the interior of tank turrets.

I first saw the reference to the order sent to concentration and extermination camps for collecting the hair in Thomas Keneally's book Schindler's Ark. The name of the German company that carried out the work is known (it still exists) but no actual production method has yet been discovered. The colour of the cord will be grey to fit the overall colour of the project.

Being able to use human hair will add a significant piece of human presence to the bugle and any other instrument that uses cord and tassels. It will be a poignant reminder that this project is about human beings and their mistreatment, or worse, by other human beings, which we want to alter into peaceful relations between people on earth. We will ask for voluntary donations of hair, potentially from people affected by war and conflict, and perhaps from survivors of the camps or genocides. It is a sensitive area that is based on actual events and should be referenced and remembered, if possible.