From The Desk Of The Ladybug Transistor: Bullwhips

The Ladybug Transistor formed in Brooklyn in 1995, and frontman Gary Olson has been the band’s sole constant member. Clutching Stems (Merge) is the group’s seventh album and the first to be made following the 2007 asthma-related death of drummer San Fadyl. Since, the band’s lineup has solidified behind Olson, featuring Kyle Forester, Julia Rydholm, Mark Dzula, Eric Farber and Michael O’Neill. The Ladybug Transistor will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Q&A with Olson.

Eric Farber: I recently had the pleasure of cracking an authentic single-tailed leather bullwhip. A friend of mine is a bona fide whip and rope performer; he is an expert at lasso tricks and can confidently break a piece of hard spaghetti pasta—held tightly by the nervous lips of a volunteer from the audience—into neat, one-inch segments, just by a few precision cracks of his whip. During a performance that I happened to catch at a resort in Mexico not too long ago, he explained to the audience that the sound of a bullwhip does not come from the leather hitting itself or from the whip making contact with another object (as I had always assumed). Rather, the whip-master imparts just the right amount of energy through his gesture, that the leather end moves so fast as to actually break the sound barrier, causing a mini sonic boom. This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. With the flick of his wrist, the whip-master makes a piece of leather travel to speeds that we have only been able to achieve through mechanical technology in the past 60 years or so. That idea of having control over the force of a sonic boom—and using that force to break stuff—really appealed to me. I had to try it for myself. I was fortunate enough to meet up with my friend in Playa del Carmen a few days later for some drinks, where I convinced him to show me the ropes. As soon as I picked up the whip, I knew that I was going to crack it on the first try; it seemed just like playing the drums. And bam! As the sound was emitted, I felt a buzz travel back through the shaft of the whip toward my clutching fist. This offered a new perspective on the power of making music. I think I’m going to start playing the drums with bullwhips from now on.

Video after the jump.

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