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When intuition strikesmusical Perpetua® and precius Perpetua®


Paolo Valentini is a guitarist and ethnomusicologist.

We’ve been acquaintances for years and I know his excellent inventiveness, so I challenged him: Can you make Perpetua the pencil play? Not only did Paolo accept the challenge, but he also raised the bid with his brother Mauro, a goldsmith and a luthier for the love of it, and asked him to make a jewelry Perpetua. Here’s the story about a challenge that has become a reality!

Paolo, how was to imagine Perpetua becoming a musical instrument?

It was a long engineering job, with many failures. The intuition about a Jew’s harp struck one night. It’s always when you least expect it.

Why did you eventually go for the Jew’s harp?

For three reasons: first of all, it’s an instrument I really love, I’ve been playing it since I was a kid, long before I decided to become a musician. Secondly, it’s an idiophone, which means that it creates sound via vibrations through the body of the instrument itself, without the use of strings, membrane or air flow. A pencil is an idiophone too, after all. I found it an interesting, almost poetic, affinity. Lastly, a Jew’s harp allows for a dual view of the object: Perpetua looks like a nib, which was the final revelation, to tell the truth. A creative process is always a surprise: you want to go from A to B, but the route is never as straight as you’d expect. It holds surprises, disappointment, rewards. Just like this project. The Jew’s harp is known in many different cultures by many different names and shapes. It is used in shamanic rituals as a droning sound that resonates in the brain, facilitating hypnotic trances, a mental relaxation just like before sleeping. The one I’ve chosen for Perpetua is called Dan Moi and is from Vietnam.

Mauro, how was it to work Perpetua and make the Jew’s harp?

It was essential to find a Jew’s harp made of a harmonic metal, since it had to be quenched. I engraved the body of the pencil and put a part of the instrument into it, which made Perpetua a sound box, because graphite has very good sound conductivity. Then I welded it with a silver pin with the P of Perpetua.

How did the intuition about a jewelry Perpetua strike you?

Generally speaking, my best ideas come to me while I’m walking along the river or I’m in the shower. I’m an observant and a good listener, I take my time and focus. I observed the shape of Perpetua for a long time. I thought that the pencil’s mark could let a flow of words and drawings out. I imagined describing that flow through water. This explains the initial silver squirt from the top of the object, which means that an idea per se comes from nothing and then flows. Likewise, silver flows onto the body of Perpetua. I decided to make it more precious with an opal, a stone that contains water. It’s a stone that should be soaked in water regularly to keep it sparkling. Australian miners would put opals in their mouth to keep them moist when they crossed the desert with their goods. The opal on Perpetua is my tribute to water, an essential and very precious resource. It marries perfectly with environmentally friendly Perpetua. Perpetua is precious because it is made of graphite, a material that is noble – let’s not forget it was used to make the first vinyl records – and precious, because it has no impact on the environment. Just like Perpetua.


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