A trio of horn, trombone, and tuba, forms the basis for a variable ensemble of brass instruments under the name, Zinc & Copper Works, which alongside its musical virtuosity is distinguished by innovative and pioneering research within the area of experimental music.
Founded by Robin Hayward in 2005, the ensemble uses distorted embouchure and experimental valve techniques to transform instruments into acoustic noise generators. In the time of Giovanni Gabrieli, long before modern valved brass instruments were invented, the brass ensemble had equal standing to other chamber music ensembles. By researching alternative approaches towards playing, Zinc & Copper Works explores the potential of the medium in the 21st century. Half-valve and muting techniques allow for an acoustic filtering of the tone, opening up a wide colour spectrum. The instruments may be tuned microtonally and combined with new technology. For example, the attachment of sensors to the valves allows the instrumental mechanism to interact with computers.
Up until 2008, Zinc & Copper Works used conventional instruments to realize microtonal tunings. In 2009 the ensemble received funding from the Kulturverwaltung des Landes Berlin, which, together with support from the instrument makers B&S, made it possible to convert the conventional instruments into a specifically designed microtonal horn and microtonal tuba. These new instruments effectively solve the technical problems associated with playing microtonal music on traditional valved brass instruments. Every conceivable pitch within the instruments’ ranges may be played and all tuning systems (both tempered and non-tempered) realized.