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Seattle, WA   

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."

The Sound of Invention

The Sound of Invention is a documentary feature by Peter Esmond profiling the life and work of Trimpin, an inventor/engineer/composer. This is a trailer from the film.

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Conloninpurple is a sound installation whose name was chosen to honor Conlon Nancarrow. It consists of sixty sounders covering five octaves. Each sounder is driven by an electrical solenoid, which, when triggered, strikes a block of wood of a given length. The note given off is naturally amplified and directed by a tuned, resonant tube of anodized aluminum. Each pipe consists of an inner and outer sleeve, allowing the length to be adjusted as the inner sleeve slides in or out of the other. The tubes are suspended by wires from the ceiling.

If 6 Was 9

If 6 Was 9 is a giant sound sculpture made up of 600 guitars strung along the branches of a metal tree rising more than 30 feet into the air, on permanent exhibit at the Experience Music Project in Seattle. The piece was commissioned by Paul Allen.

The guitars are self-playing, self-tuning guitars that have been invented for the project. Throughout the day, guitar picks on mechanical arms strike the strings as computer-controlled dampers press down on the frets, creating eerily beautiful music.