by Berkeley Grimball
From early clarinet lessons to the present, music is an expressive and necessary part of my life. I have been fortunate to learn to play many instruments, including guitar, mandolin, keyboards, saxophone, clarinet and assorted percussion, though my favorite instrument remains the voice. I have recorded five albums of original music and been a contributing artist on three more. Over the past ten years, I have been making instruments out of natural and found objects. My brother and I twice performed with bands playing all bamboo instruments we had made.
In the summer of 2021, I designed and built a completely original instrument, the podkora, or podharp, made with a palm pod from a Queen Palm tree. It is strung in the style of the African gourd harp, the Kora. Since I moved to Gulfport two years ago I have been using the dried pods in sculptures. In the summer of 2020 I began to experiment with their sonic possibilities and was thrilled with the results. The current instrument is the fifth iteration, with added strings and a refined bridge My goal is to continue to evolve and refine the instrument. My current pod harp has fourteen strings, while the design for the next pod harp contains twenty-one strings, matching the number on a traditional West African kora.
My bigger vision is to create podharp ensemble, with two or three pod instruments as the core. I am experimenting with harvesting the pods before they split and using the dried tubes for percussion and I am working on a design for a pod cello.
The podharp is a totally original instrument, conceived, designed and made in Pinellas County from a pod that I cut from a tree in our yard.