I decided to make my musical instrument using the most reliable, affordable and easily acceptable resource in my culture. I have access to trees, but no inclination to cut them down. I have access to metals, but no talent for manipulating them into instruments capable of making sounds. In 21st century America I looked around and tried to find the one resource easily made available to every person whether they have a little money or a lot of money or even no money at all. What is that every American spends money and then casually makes available for easy finding? Shoes.Shoes are everywhere in America. Almost literally. They hang from telephone lines, they are found in rubbish bins, they are sold for ridiculous amounts of money in hoity-toity stores and then those very same expensive shoes often filter their way down to ridiculously inexpensive thrift stores. Everybody (within reason) owns several pairs of shoes, but what most of those people probably never take the time to think about it just what a wide variety of sounds can be produced by shoes. This is because shoes can are made of such a wide variety of materials that are fashioned into a dazzling array of styles.
The Shoechestra—as I have decided to call it—is a percussion instrument not at all unlike the bells. The shoes—like bells—are played with hands. What makes the Shoechestra stand out, of course, is that bells have a very limited potential for sound. Shoes, however, can be manipulated to lend a truly astonishing layer of sonic accompaniment to everything from a romantic composition to the soundtrack of a horror film. For instance, a pair of simple female flats with ribbed soles can be rubbed against each other to create a “sawing” sound. A pair of leather running shoes makes a fantastically resonant popping sound with slapped against each other. Metal stiletto heels provide a “ping” echo that can punctuate or fill in the gap of a low volume section of a musical piece.
Aside from the inherent value of making a variety of sounds based on the materials and construction of shoes, they also lend themselves to versatility depending on how the musician mastering the Shoechestra manipulates them. For instance, when both hands are slipped inside the shoe, the sound can become muffled. When a heel it used to create the sound, the strength which that part of the shoe is struck along with where it is struck as well as how the shoe being held is struck all contribute to making the sound differentiate.
Perhaps the best thing about the Shoechestra is that it is a musical instrument that can be mobile or static and is not dependent at all upon economic status. Anyone can literally make their own Shoechestra and the end result can be constructed to take advantage of limit space or to take full advantage of an unlimited economic bounty. If a person wanted only to create their Shoechestra using the most expensive materials, they could; on the other hand, a perfect serviceable Shoechestra could be constructed for less than ten dollars. It is a musical instrument relying far more upon imagination than money.
For myself, my Shoechestra was created using shoes that were donated by friends for the occasion and—to determine what kind of sound could be made on a limited budget—a box of randomly chosen shoes from a thrift store costing only five dollars. The accompanying sketch represents the most basic of styles and placement on a shelf system for holding them.

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