Sounds Good

If you’re looking for an auditory adventure this weekend, there are two events involving faculty well worth attending: Friday night’s MISTIC concert and Saturday night’s Site & Sound installation.

First up is MISTIC. The final event of the School of Music/Open Space collaboration with Seattle-based sound sculptor and inventor Trimpin on the (CanonX+4:33=100) piano-based sculptural installation, the MISTIC concert promises to be both a fascinating and entertaining evening.

Preparing to get MISTIC: (from left) Darren Miller, Andy Schloss and Steeve Bjornson. Photo: Kristy Farkas

MISTIC—or, Music Intelligence and Sound Technology Interdisciplinary Collective—will feature Dr. Andrew Schloss and UVic students putting into practice the “unique methodologies” they’ve developed over the course of the (CanonX+4:33=100) exhibit, as they “perform” the installation as one enormous musical instrument. (Last Saturday’s exhibit discussion by Darren Miller focused on the “compositional opportunities and challenges of writing for a Trimpin installation,” so it’s bound to be quite the night.) Remember, these aren’t really pianos anymore, more a series of deconstructed and enhanced piano-based constructs into which the MISTIC performers can plug their computers in order to create their own unique style of music.

Open Space says it best: “Created by one of the most stimulating and inventive forces in music today, Trimpin’s installation will skew your everyday assumptions about sound and technology and engage your senses of perception, surprise, and joy in an extraordinary and intricate audio-visual experience unlike any other.”


The MISTIC concert starts at 8pm Friday, April 27, at Open Space, 510 Fort Street. Tickets are $15 or $10



 for Open Space members, students & seniors

Then on Saturday night, it’s the Royal BC Museum’s quite literally fascinating sounding Site & Sound installation. Dubbed “a unique festival of all things auditory,” Site & Sound features an impressive lineup of musicians, poets and sound artists who will be performing after-hours in and around the various RBCM dioramas and displays.

Will new Visual Arts associate professor and sound artist Paul Walde be in the submarine? Will the Victoria Phonographers Union—featuring concert manager Kristy Farkas—be in the old town? Will flautist and School of Music alum Kathy Rogers be in the rainforest? Will Victoria Poet Laureate Janet Rogers be in the longhouse? Will spoken word artists Missie Peters and Dave Morris be riding the wooly mammoth? You won’t know if you don’t go!

All of the nine participating artists and groups have specially crafted sound for this event, which will provide a unique way of experiencing the RBCM. In addition to those already mentioned, the other performers are sound artist Tina Pearson, bluegrass duo Garrett Tompson and Shanti Bremer, Chinese group the Victoria Gum Sing Musical Society and local performance artist Peter Morin, of northern BC’s Tahltan Nation.

Whatever your taste in musical expression, it’s a safe bet you won’t hear either of these two shows again!

Site & Sound starts at 7pm Saturday, April 28, at the Royal BC Museum, 675 Belleville Street. Tickets are $15.

Talking Trimpin

The School of Music/Open Space collaboration with Seattle-based sound sculptor and inventor Trimpin on his (CanonX+4:33=100) piano-based sculptural piece has been getting good press since its March 16 opening. With the exhibit itself running through to April 27 at Open Space Gallery—closing night will feature a live concert with UVic’s MISTIC group “playing” Trimpin’s creation—there’s still lots of time left to pop down to 510 Fort Street and check it out. We guarantee you’ll never look at a piano the same way again!

In his Times Colonist piece, Adrian Chamberlain talks with Trimpin about the importance of Conlon Nancarrow and how cuckoo clocks in Trimpin’s native Germany may have been an early influence on his work.

Open Space director Helen Marzolf talks to CTV's Adam Sawatsky about the Trimpin exhibibt

To get a sense of the piece in action, check out this interview where Adam Sawatsky of CTV Vancouver Island talks with Open Space director Helen Marzolf (just click on the picture to the right, then slide along to the 1:30 mark for the start of the Trimpin piece).

Meanwhile, in her Monday Magazine article, Mary Ellen Green spoke with project originator (and now School of Music Concert Manager) Kristy Farkas about the idea of music. “Every object is an instrument,” Farkas told Green, while discussing Trimpin’s work. “I don’t always like to play instruments in traditional ways. I always used to play with the inside of pianos and I really connected with his work. It’s very creative, playful, sculptural and imaginative.”

Trimpin (centre) works with UVic students to build (CanonX+4:33=100) Photo: Dallas V. Duobaitis

Trimpin himself offers a breakdown of the (CanonX+4:33=100) project in this article for The Ring, and recently spoke on-air with the campus radio show U in the Ring (scroll down to the February 28 podcast, and it’s about two-thirds of the way through). And the good folks at MediaNet posted this video of the exhibit’s opening night.

If you’re interested in the mechanics of the installation, on-site specialists will be available for demonstrations and Q&A sessions every Thursday from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at Open Space.

And there’s a weekly series of talks and discussions called Plugging In: Talks on Sound, Technology & Art featuring UVic speakers:

• Project co-creator Andrew Schloss of the Music & Computer Science degree program talks about “Approaching Public Art from a Sonic Perspective” at 7:30pm on Wednesday, April 4.

• New Visual Arts instructor Paul Walde will discuss “Composer as Inventor” at 2:00pm on Saturday, April 7.

Steeve A. Bjorson talks about “Micro-controllers and Their Use in (CanonX+4:33=100)” at 2:00pm on Saturday, April 14.

• And finally, in advance of the MISTIC concert, Darren Miller will discuss “Invention on Invention: The Compositional Opportunities and Challenges of Writing for a Trimpin Installation” at 2:00pm on Saturday, April 21.

Trimpin Reinvents the Piano

Not that there’s anything wrong with the piano as we know it, but internationally celebrated sound sculptor, composer and inventor Trimpin has never been one to simply accept things as they are. Now, the Seattle-based Trimpin will be bringing his latest innovation to Victoria this year 2012 with a project titled (CanonX+4:33=100).

Trimpin in his Seattle studio (photo: Kristy Farkas)

In collaboration with Open Space and Dr. Andrew Schloss (head of our Music and Computer Science program), a team of emerging sound engineers, musicians and visual artists from UVic will have the opportunity to work directly under Trimpin’s mentorship while assisting with the creation and installation of the work, scheduled to debut at Open Space on March 16.

With 2012 marking the centennial celebration of some of the most influential composers of the last century—namely John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow—(CanonX+4:33=100) will celebrate a continuum and extension of the important work of both composers. Combining ancient concepts and methods with the latest in digital technology, Trimpin will give new life to an array of transformed abandoned pianos, by constructing visually dynamic and aurally stunning acoustic and electroacoustic sculptures and automatons out of their carcasses.

“The pianos will be ‘prepared’ with mechanical actuators—small robotic devices to play the piano strings in a way which both composers, more than a half century ago, started to experiment with, compose, and perform,” Trimpin explains. “With the tools of today’s technologies, this experimentation can be extended to the next level of investigation.”

Detail of (CanonX+4.33=100). (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Believing in our capacity to experience sound visually, Trimpin will accentuate this concept with the use of video cameras and sensors to translate movement and colour into gestures that activate the instruments.

Trimpin will visit UVic from January 17 to 20 to introduce the project, conduct workshops with participants, and host a free screening of Peter Esmonde’s 2009 documentary, TRIMPIN: the sound of invention (8pm January 18 in Visual Arts room A146, featuring the music of the Kronos Quartet). He will then return in March to install (CanonX+4:33=100) at Open Space, as well as present an artist talk and perform with the UVic collective, MISTIC. Until the close of the installation on April 28, the UVic team will lead demonstrations and workshops, as well as have the opportunity to develop unique methodologies for activating and “performing” the installation as an enormous musical instrument.

Trimpin's "IF VI WAS XI: Roots and Branches" (photo: EMP Museum)

Enormous instruments are nothing new to Trimpin, who is perhaps best known in the Pacific Northwest for his towering instrumental sculpture “IF VI WAS IX: Roots and Branches,” which dominates the main level of Seattle’s Experience Music Project Museum. Constructed from more than 500 musical instruments and 30 computers, “Roots and Branches” offers a dynamic, engaging and historical journey into the origins and evolution of American popular music—thanks to the earphone-equipped computer touch-screens that guide visitors through various sound permutations the sculpture is capable of realizing.

After years of formal training in brass and woodwind performance, the German-born Trimpin completed an apprenticeship in electrical engineering and later earned a Master’s degree in social pedagogy. As he explains on the Experience Music Project website, “I had to study what goes on physically when different brains are working. I needed all this information to get to the point where I could execute my ideas. It wasn’t available in literature, because none of these books existed. So from the beginning I always had to do it on my own.”

One of the most stimulating and inventive forces in music today, Trimpin’s  (CanonX+4:33=100) will skew your everyday assumptions about sound and technology and engage your senses of perception, surprise, and joy, in an extraordinary and intricate audio-visual experience unlike any other.

—Kristy Farkas and John Threlfall, with files from the EMP Museum

Don’t miss the free screening of TRIMPIN: The Sound of Invention—featuring Trimpin himself as host—at 8pm Wednesday January 18 in room A146 of UVic’s Visual Arts building.