is a site – specific interactive installation , activated by visitors coming in close proximity. Six upright piano frameworks– string/harp cast iron structure, including the soundboard–configured in a house “look-alike,” are retained to be the essential components of The Pianohouse. As visitors approach the structure it plays music, accompanied by an array of kinetic electro-mechanical actuators which strike, bow, pluck or scratch the strings.
Over time, The Pianohouse will musically “deconstruct” itself, as a result of weather and other environmental conditions. The instruments will collectively experience these effects, slowly changing the pitch and other parameters. This metaphor plays very well into the philosophy and work of the late John Cage: prepared pianos are playing in an unpredictable fashion until the silence takes over.
This overall timeframe again is unpredictable. It could be several months or several years—only nature can affect this duration. A motion sensor activates different mechanical devices to play the designated compositions. Some compositions explore a more percussive path; others are based more on a harmonic spectrum, to be played on the piano strings.
My work is an ongoing exploration of the concepts of sound, vision and movement, experimenting with combinations that will introduce our senses of perception to a totally new experience. Although I use the latest technology available, I work with “natural” elements—water, air, light, fire, etc.—and reconfigure them in new and unusual applications, pushing them to the limits of what we traditionally think of as their role.
Many of my commissions have supported my interest in these new genres—encouraging the development of original ideas and exploration of multi- disciplined mediums. In most projects, I’ve had to develop my own components, because there was nothing commercially available that could be used for my particular expectation.
I am continually seeking new forms of expression, but often use methods that may actually be ancient in origin: a tuning system that may be a thousand years old, or a computer used to achieve acoustic, rather than synthesized, sound. It is these very contradictions which give my work an ambiguity that piques the imagination of viewers and continues to stimulate my own.
Almost a quarter century’s pursuit of discovery and application has taken place in my development of a body of work. Early experiences in art, music, and technical training, theater set design, and kinetic sculpture have served as subtext for each successive project. The balance between visual and aural in my work is not coincidental—I’m not content to create something which merely functions technically or is pleasing to the eye—it is the complexity of dimensions which offers the most satisfaction. The time-space concept, which can be expressed musically as well as visually, has been brought to the point where we can visualize sound. There is a threshold between the two where the cognition process of the viewer is likely to recognize acoustics and perceptual movement simultaneously—a natural phenomena.
This relatively new art form has begun to feel at home within the arts community, but still holds enough uncharted territory to offer unlimited possibilities—a challenge that will undoubtedly keep me occupied for the next half of my life.
Trimpin was born in 1951 in Germany and attended the University in Berlin. For the past 30 years he has been living and working as a sound artist in Seattle, Washington. Commissions, projects, and guest lecturer positions have been the primary focus of his profession as a sound artist. He has been a recipient of numerous grants and awards nationally and internationally.
2014 Installation and Interview. Video by Caryn Waechter.