Contraptions for Art and Sound

Book - 2011
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Trimpin , the sound sculptor and composer, has received MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships; been the subject of a full-length documentary film and a profile in The New Yorker magazine; been included in hundreds of shows, performances, and new music festivals; and has had installations and exhibitions around the world. Despite all this, access to Trimpin 's work is limited. He doesn't record his music and very few of his sculptural works are in public or private collections.

This book captures a record of this remarkable journey and places Trimpin 's work in the context of visual art, music composition, performance, ambitious engineering, acoustics, and installation art. A touchstone for the book is a two-year series of exhibitions of his work in museums across the Pacific Northwest. It includes essays on Trimpin 's life, his work with composer Conlon Nancarrow, and a fully illustrated presentation of key sculptures and performances. Additional essays by writers, composers, and curators consider his work through specific pieces. Trimpin 's own voice is a continuous thread running through the entire publication.

Publisher: Seattle [Wash.] : University of Washington Press, c2011.
ISBN: 9780295991092
Branch Call Number: 709.2 TRIMPIN
Characteristics: 199 p. : ill. (chiefly col.) ; 28 cm.
Additional Contributors: Focke, Anne
Alternative Title: Contraptions for art and sound


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Sep 07, 2017

Widgets, wozzles, doodads, thingamajigs, contraptions, and an array of bass b-flat whatchamacallits (I made that last one up)… This is the work of a modern-day artist who is a part Harry Partch, Dr. Seuss, Rube Goldberg, Willy Wonka, Spike Jones, Richard Lerman, John Cage, and Conlon Nancarrow (Trimpin worked directly with Nancarrow on at least one occasion). All of Trimpin’s works combine musical composition, sculpture, and a digital interface. The guitar tower in the EMP Museum is the best known; others are equally whimsical and brilliant: wooden shoes hang on strings and tick out complex Nancarrowesque polyrhythms with small mallets hidden inside; giant purple horns play while suspended in the museum space; concentric rings of metal guide a perpetually orbiting stainless steel moon above the spectators’ heads; carefully controlled flames suck air into (and out of) plastic organ pipes to produce mysterious drones (I’ve seen a version of that one at the Arts in Nature Festival). These are all installations, of course, so this “art book” provides mostly photographs from various angles and the sketches from which the installations were made, as well as discussions by various artists about Trimpin's work. There is unfortunately no way to include the audio aspect, though some of it is available on YouTube.

KCLSRecommends Mar 18, 2014

Let us now praise local geniuses! Trimpin, that single-named artist, is certainly one of Seattle’s inimitable local treasures. His work can be seen at EMP or Teatro Zinzanni or even at SeaTac airport. These creations generally combine music (or sound, at least) and sculpture -- usually moving -- to create fascinating one-of-a-kind miracles. Originally from Germany, Trimpin has been quoted as saying that he moved to the US because we have 'better junk' (from which he often assembles his works)!
For example -- to better illuminate his singular vision -- simply check out the titles of some of his assemblages over the years: Liquid Percussion, Floating Orange Piano, Chicken Random Number Generator, Dadadata Storage, Phffft-Arrrgh and Shhh!
And though Trimpin has long resisted having any of his musical sculptures captured on recordings of any kind, this book is a beautiful way to evoke many of these special creations -- as well as some nice lengthy biographical sketches about this unique artist. Or, as an introductory essay phrases it: "...this crazy mix of impressions, concepts, descriptions, ideas, diagrams, scores, installations shots, and details counters the direct elegance of so many of his pieces..."
Also, while KCLS does not (yet?) carry this title, a movie recently came out on our local legend, as well:


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