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Article

Laurence Libin

(b Napier, New Zealand, May 14, 1946). Intermedia artist whose transdisciplinary practice includes video/sound work and installations, experimental instruments, graphic scores, and improvisation. He studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland (DipFA Hons, 1971) and the University of West Sydney, Nepean (MA Hons, 2000). Since the early 1970s his sound-based artworks have involved newly invented instruments. A member of the original Scratch Orchestra in London (1968–9), Dadson founded Scratch Orchestra (NZ) in 1970 and later From Scratch (1974–2004). A key part of From Scratch’s development was instrument invention, from using found objects to making unique, custom-designed devices. Tunings evolved from randomly pitched sounds to 12-note and microtonal tunings, and just intonation. Central to this development were tuned percussion stations composed of rack-supported, four-tiered assemblies of PVC pipes, tuned-tongue bamboos and bells (in which parallel slots cut in the materials produce a vibrating tongue matching the resonant frequency of the open or closed tubes), and roto-tom drums, combined with special methods of playing. These percussion stations, along with other novel struck and spun acoustic instruments, produced the characteristic From Scratch sound. More recent instruments include the Zitherum (long-stringed instruments that are drummed and bowed), the metal-pronged Nundrum, the stroked RodBaschet, the gong tree, Foley-trays, the Water Cooler Drumkit, water bells, the Gloop-spring-string-drum family, the Sprong family, and other fanciful types....

Article

Hugh Davies

(b Torquay, England, Dec 1, 1944). British sound sculptor and performer. He studied sculpture at Homsey College of Art (BA 1972), where he began to make new instruments in 1971; he was then awarded a year’s fellowship at Exeter College of Art. He has exhibited his self-playing sound sculptures since 1973 and from about 1978 has presented them in concert performances (mostly those with variable controls that cannot be exploited in exhibitions). His work is principally concerned with motive power derived from natural forces and the continuous variations that are or can be produced by them.

Eastley’s fascination with the aeolian harp and other aeolian instruments is well documented in his dissertation Sonurgy, which describes string, percussion, and wind instruments of this type; they include a ground harp, an instrument in which small beaters are blown against a suspended sheet of mild steel, panpipes, a ‘marine organ’ consisting of a pipe whose length and pitch vary with the tide, and bullroarers and hollow metal cylinders rotated by electric motors. The aeolian principle is continued in the ‘elastic aerophone’ (...

Article

(b Rochester, MN, 1973). American sound artist and instrument inventor. He spent his early childhood in Tanzania and is currently based in Bolinas, California. His sculptural instruments, notably a family of modified turntables activated by such unpredictable elemental forces as flowing water and wind, explore interactions between nature and technology. Balloon Powered Turntable is geared to the motion of weather balloons. A windmill fashioned from soup ladles powers the Wind Powered Turntable. Hot air from burning candles propels the Fire Powered Turntable. While attending Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota in 1991, Kitundu encountered hip hop, and through it, the turntable, played by scratching. He observed that the turntable pickup senses vibration even from sources other than a vinyl record. This realization led to his Stylophones, instruments in which one or more plucked, bowed, struck, or blown strings directly vibrate the stylus; the resulting output can be mixed with other sounds and electronically processed. In ...

Article

Olivia Mattis

(b Columbus, NE, 1926; d San Francisco, April 21, 2011). American engineer, inventor and composer. One of the pioneers of computer music, he was a member of the Bell Telephone Laboratories group that included John Pierce and Newman Guttman. He studied electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology (BS 1950) and MIT (MS 1952, ScD 1954) before working in acoustic research at Bell Labs (1955–87). In 1987 he was appointed to a professorship at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). His many honours include the SEAMUS Award from the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music (1989) and the French Legion of Honour (1994).

Mathews’ best-known composition, his rendition of Bicycle Built for Two using instrumental and vocal sounds synthesized by the computer (1961), became a cultural icon when it was used as the basis of the final scene of Stanley Kubrick’s film ...

Article

Takis  

Hugh Davies

[Vassilakis, Panayiotis]

(b Athens, Greece, Oct 29, 1925). Greek sculptor. He has incorporated sound elements in much of his work since 1963, when he collaborated with the composer Earle Brown in ‘Sound of the Void’, in which electromagnets repeatedly cause a needle to strike a string. Takis left Greece for Paris in 1954 and has subsequently divided his time among Paris, Athens, London, New York, and many other cities. Much of his work after the mid-1950s is concerned with movement, usually within a magnetic or electromagnetic field; of this type are the ‘pendules magnètiques’ from 1964 to 1965 and the ‘signals multiples’ constructed in 1966 in which flashing lights are mounted on the tops of tall swaying steel rods. His pieces often incorporate recycled electrical apparatus and sometimes include flashing blue mercury vapour lamps. The non-magnetic series ‘Signals’ (1954 to the late 1960s), in which piano strings are struck together by the wind, gave its name to an art gallery and a magazine in London in the 1960s....

Article

Hugh Davies

(b Fribourg, Switzerland, May 22, 1925; d Bern, Aug 30, 1991). Swiss sculptor. He was active chiefly in or near Paris from 1952. His work is concerned with movement, and he was one of the pioneers of kinetic art in the mid-1950s. Most of his sculptures since 1954 incorporate electric motors and were constructed largely from junk and everyday materials. As a boy, about 1938, he built a percussion machine consisting of about two dozen water-wheels of different sizes, turned by a stream, which caused small hammers to strike tin cans. All his machines have strong personalities, quirky and unpredictable, and often are humorous, sometimes threatening. At first (1954–5) they were operated, like surrealistic clockwork, by handmade wire cog-wheels; these were soon replaced by various types of continuous belt drive, which, from the beginning of his found-object and auto-destructive period in 1960, involved discarded bicycle and pram wheels and, in the larger sculptures, a range of wooden and metal wheels from old industrial machinery....

Article

Suzanne Beal

(b Istein, now part of Efringen-Kirchen, Germany, Nov 26, 1951). German instrument inventor, kinetic sculptor, sound artist, and composer, known as Trimpin. His father was a brass and woodwind player, and Trimpin played with old instruments as a child but developed an allergy to metals that precluded performing on brass instruments. Instead he experimented with making new devices using old radios and parts of discarded instruments. He studied music and art at the University of Berlin from 1975 to 1979. From 1976 to 1979 he was a musician for the Theater Zentrifuge in Berlin, and designed sets for the San Quentin Drama Workshop under the direction of Rick Cluchey and Samuel Beckett. In 1979 he left Berlin for Seattle and began independent research in sound sculpture design, combining music composition and kinetics with computer technology. From 1985 to 1987 he taught at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam, and in ...