Alex's research interests involve the impacts of globalization on the academic percussion music instrument industry, the search for sustainable methods of crafting marimbas and other environmentally problematic percussion instruments, and methods for reconnecting the actors of the music making experience within a global market economy. He received a Fulbright-Hays DDRA to conduct original research for eight months in Ghana from Dec 2018-Aug 2019. Alex studied with Dr. Michael Largey.
Saving the Songwood: Global Consumption, Sustainability, and Value
“Reconnecting the Music-Making Experience Through Musician Efforts in Instrument Craft.” International Journal of Music Education (2018). https://doi.org/10.1177/0255761418771993.
“Crafting New Musical Possibilities: A New Educational Area for Academic Music?” Perspectives of New Music 54 (2017). https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7757/persnewmusi.54.2.0219.
“Reconnecting the Actors of the Music-Making Experience: Supporting Small-Scale Local Craftsmanship in the Academic Percussion Community.” Ecomusicology Review 4 (2016). https://web.archive.org/web/20170216165457/http://www.ecomusicology.info/ecomusicology-review/.
“New Musical Contexts for More Sustainably Made Marimbas.” Percussive Notes Online Research Edition 1 (2016). http://www.pas.org/publications/percussive-notes-online-research-edition.
Review of George Dor’s West African Drumming and Dance in North American Universities: an Ethnomusicological Perspective. The Journal of Musical Arts in Africa 13, no. 1-2, 95-98.
Smith, Alex. "More Than a Marimba Bar." UCLA Echo Blog (April 27, 2015). http://www.echo.ucla.edu/more-than-a-marimba-bar/.
Smith, Alex. Resonator Prototype Demonstration, 2014.
In the summer of 2014 with funding from the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, Alex and Matt Kazmierski developed a resonator prototype to test various models and materials for marimba resonators as they relate to volume and length of resonance. Four resonators were created for this experiment: 1) a steam-bent wood Helmholtz resonator, 2) a wooden box-style Helmholtz resonator, 3) an aluminum tube, and 4) a cardboard tube. Interestingly, the wooden box-style was determined to be both the loudest and most resonant; in second place was the aluminum tube, followed by the steam-bent wood Helmholtz resonator, and then the cardboard tube. At the end of the day this project raises more questions than it answers; therefore, more investigation is required.
Smith, Alex. The Michigandered Marimba, 2013.
In summer of 2013, with funding from MSU and under the tutelage of Michigan-based luthier and marimba craftsman Matt Kazmierski, Alex constructed a low-cost “sustainable marimba,” primarily comprised of Michigan woods and resources, in an attempt to provide a local and suitable alternative to rosewood-bar marimbas.
Upon the instrument’s completion he compiled a short video documentary about the project, entitled the Michigandered Marimba (below), which also features the music of Michigan artists and the work of Matt Kazmierski.
Below is a recording of a piece written for the Michigandered Marimba by Victor Marquez, performed by Kelsey Tamayo on January 12, 2014 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.