REMINDER: Trimpin training on Mon. Sept. 25 at 6 pm (plus some cheat notes)
INTRO AND GALLERY TALK
Monday, September 25, 2006 6-7:30 pm
Trimpin will introduce Conloninpurple
Location: Event Space and Bill and Bobby Street Gallery
This training is mandatory for all current docents and optional for new docents, and is the only training for Trimpin.
Please arrive a few minutes early – training will begin at 6:00 pm promptly.
Also, please try to have done some preliminary reading – I have already emailed some web links and there is lots of Trimpin information on the internet.
And let’s try not to get ahead of the artist with our questions. Please let the artist talk first, and there will always be time for questions at the end – that way, we can effectively cover more information with less repetition. In the Aminah training, I think we started asking questions a little too early, and didn’t give her the chance to bring up topics at her own pace. I know that all of you have the best intentions, and are full of questions, but please make notes about your questions and then ask them once we have covered the gallery if they remain unanswered.
Trimpin, a sound sculptor, composer, inventor, is one of the most stimulating one-man forces in music today. A specialist in interfacing computers with traditional acoustic instruments, he has developed a myriad of methods for playing, trombones, cymbals, pianos, and so forth with Macintosh computers. He has collaborated frequently with Conlon Nancarrow, realizing the composer's piano roll compositions through various media. At the 1989 Composer-to-Composer conference in Telluride, Colorado, Trimpin created a Macintosh-controlled device that allowed one of Nancarrow's short studies for player piano to be performed by mallets striking 100 Dutch wooden shoes arranged in a horseshoe from the edge of the balcony at the Sheridan Opera House. He also prepared a performance of Nancarrow's studies at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for New Music America in 1989.
Trimpin was born in southwestern Germany, near the Black Forest. His early musical training began at the age of eight, learning woodwinds and brass instruments. In later years he developed an allergic reaction to metal which prevented him from pursuing a career in music, so he turned to electro-mechanical engineering. Afterwards, he spent several years living and studying in Berlin where he received his Master's Degree from the University of Berlin.
Eventually he became interested in acoustical sets while working in theater productions with Samuel Beckett and Rick Cluchey, director of the San Quentin Drama Workshop. From 1985-87 he co-chaired the Electronic Music Department of the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam.
Trimpin now resides in Seattle where numerous instruments that defy description adorn his amazing studio. In describing his work, Trimpin sums it up as "extending the traditional boundaries of instruments and the sounds they're capable of producing by mechanically operating them. Although they're computer-driven, they're still real instruments making real sounds, but with another dimension added, that of spatial distribution. What I'm trying to do is go beyond human physical limitations to play instruments in such a way that no matter how complex the composition of the timing, it can be pushed over the limits."
CONLON NANCARROW BIOGRAPHY (1912-1997)
Born in Texarkana, Arkansas in 1912, Nancarrow was active in his early years as a trumpeter, playing jazz and other types of popular music. He attended the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music from 1929-32, and later studied composition and counterpoint in Boston with Nicolas Slonimsky, Walter Piston, and Roger Sessions (1933-36). He values most his work with Sessions: "The only formal studies I did that were important were the studies I had in strict counterpoint with Roger Sessions. That was the only formal training I ever had. And they were rigid! I'd do this strict counterpoint exercise, and then I'd take a piece of my music and say to him, 'What do you think of this?' 'Very interesting; where's your counterpoint exercise?'" Nancarrow also cites Bach and Stravinsky as seminal influences.
In 1937 Nancarrow enlisted in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. On his return to the United States in 1939 he became involved in the New York new music scene, contributing several reviews to Modern Music and associating with other composers such as Elliot Carter and Aaron Copland.
Nancarrow was a dedicated socialist, which made him politically unacceptable in the United States. This was brought plainly home when he applied for a passport and was denied. Angry at such treatment, he moved to Mexico City in the early 1940s, becoming a Mexican citizen in 1956. He died there in 1997.
Nancarrow returned to the player piano partly because of Mexico's extreme musical isolation. Another more compelling reason was his long-standing frustration at the inability of musicians to deal with even moderately difficult rhythms. He goes so far as to say that "As long as I've been writing music I've been dreaming of getting rid of the performers." With the advent of the phonograph, the player piano has been relegated to the status of an object of nostalgia. But not so for Nancarrow, who since the late 1940s has composed almost exclusively for the instrument.
The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Nancarrow's complete Studies for Player Piano have been released on compact disc by Wergo (Germany), produced by Charles Amirkhanian.
Trimpin Press Release
August 9, 2006
Tacoma Art Museum Presents Conloninpurple by Seattle Sound Artist and MacArthur “Genius” Trimpin Culminating Exhibition in Year-Long Regional Tribute
(Tacoma, WA) – Tacoma Art Museum will be the final venue for the year-long regional survey celebrating twenty-five years of the remarkable work done by composer and sound sculptor Trimpin. Conloninpurple, a sound-art installation, opens September 26, 2006, and will be on view until January 14, 2007.
Gerhard Trimpin (who legally goes only by his last name) is an independent researcher and experimenter in musical, acoustical, and sound sculpture design. He regularly combines music composition, kinetics, and computer technology in his work. In 1997, he received a substantial award from the MacArthur Fellows Program, more commonly known as the “MacArthur genius grant,” for his exceptional creativity.
The German-born composer and sculptor has lived and worked in Seattle since 1979. He created Conloninpurple in honor of composer Conlon Nancarrow, an avant-garde composer best known for the technical complexity of his music. The installation is a five-octave instrument created from tuned wooden and metal bars. Each instrument is grouped into individual hanging columns and fitted with an electromagnetic mallet system. A magnetic field activates a plunger which shoots upward and strikes the wooden bar. Sounds range from almost inaudible to full force. The room-sized piece produces natural sounds that can be played by museum visitors or set to pre-composed musical sequences. The Holter Museum of Art in Helena, Montana, originally commissioned the installation in 1997.
“Trimpin is one of Seattle’s most talented and best hidden artists. His sound sculptures have informed a new contemporary art vocabulary and helped define the role of sound in recent art”, said Rock Hushka, Interim Head of the Curatorial Department and Curator of Northwest and Contemporary Art. “His works engage visitors on multiple levels and invite them to participate in the experience, rather than to just be passive observers. He highlights the unexpected importance of sound in the visual experience.”
Conloninpurple is Trimpin’s second installation at Tacoma Art Museum. His first was 1993’s PHFFFT-ARRRGH. One of his best-known pieces in the region is If VI Was IX, housed at the Experience Music Project. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen commissioned the tower of guitars, which can play most any song and can even tune themselves.
Trimpin was trained as a traditional musician but health issues forced him to refocus on alternative forms of musical expression. His work has earned international acclaim, and he is celebrated as one of the world’s foremost innovators in sound sculpture. In addition to numerous grants and fellowships in Seattle and Washington State, Trimpin has also received a National Endowment for the Arts Artist Grant, a Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Foundation “Artist At Giverny, France” grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was recently featured in the May 8, 2006 issue of The New Yorker.
During 2005 and 2006, a consortium of eleven regional art organizations, including Seattle Art Museum, The Frye Art Museum, Museum of Glass, and The Henry Art Gallery, presented Trimpin’s work through sequential exhibitions of newly commissioned and major past installations. This collaborative project honors his life and the work he created in this region for the past twenty-five years and was organized by independent curator Beth Sellars. Tacoma Art Museum is proud to be the culminating venue.
From the May 8, 2006 issue of The New Yorker:
(complete article in binder at docent desk)
Jean Strouse reports, in “Music of the Spheres” (p. 36), on Gerhard Trimpin, a fifty-four-year-old sound sculptor and installation artist, whose sculpture “Der Ring Hoch Drei,” a large-scale perpetual-motion instrument, was recently installed at the Phæno science center, in Wolfsburg, Germany. Trimpin is based in Seattle, where one of his best-known pieces, “If VI Was IX”—more commonly referred to as “the guitar tower”—is housed at the Experience Music Project. The piece was commissioned by Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen, and the guitars, which can play most of the history of American music, can even tune themselves. Strouse explains, “Trimpin moved to the United States largely because Americans throw out a lot more of the high-tech junk he uses in his work than Europeans do.” She writes, “The sounds that Trimpin creates are natural and acoustic. He has no objection to electronic music, loudspeakers, or amplifiers but is, he says, ‘more interested in modifying or elaborating on the sounds made by traditional instruments, and in seeing how sound works in time and space.’ ” He also tells Strouse, “My work is always visualizing sound. A blind person can hear the movement, and a deaf person can see it. You don’t have to understand the science of sine waves, pitches, and timbres to feel the impact of melodic, percussive sounds.” Trimpin’s sound sculptures have appeared all over the world; however, he has no dealer, no Web site, and no cell phone, and makes no recordings of his work. Nor is it often bought by collectors. The choreographer Merce Cunningham, who once commissioned a piece from Trimpin, says, “He isn’t concerned about whether people like what he does or not. Probably, he hopes they do, but he’s going to do it anyway.”
Assistant Museum Educator and Docent Coordinator
TACOMA ART MUSEUM
1701 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, Washington 98402
T: 253.272.4258 x3018
Become a Member Today!