Trimpin: Master Sound Sculptor

Seattle Symphony Music Alive Composer in Residence Trimpin will be featured during [untitled] 3 on May 1 with the world premiere of his piece Above, Below, and In Between. Tickets and more information here.

You have likely seen his installations around Seattle — if you have visited the EMP Museum then you have experienced IF VI WAS IX: Roots and Branches, the tower of approximately 500 guitars and other stringed instruments. Or perhaps you’ve noticed the 80-foot-long installation simply called Contraption in the A concourse at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport which responds musically to the motions of people walking by.

Trimpin is a “sound sculptor” and composer, most known for creating site-specific sound installations, many of which are permanently installed in museums and galleries around the world. A MacArthur “Genius,” he is also known for inventing instruments like a six-story-high xylophone, a mechanical cello and a computer-controlled timpani capable of performing in a way that simply isn’t humanly possible.

On May 1, one of his latest inventions will be “played” by Ludovic Morlot and Seattle Symphony musicians at the late-night [untitled] series concert in the Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby. The centerpiece of this new installation and composition by Trimpin is a piano that can be conducted and played without being touched. Ludovic Morlot will conduct as a custom-made motion capture system “watches” him and translates his movements to digitally control the piano and an array of other inventions hanging from the lobby promenade. Symphony musicians will also follow Morlot as they perform on their instruments in real time.

Although this installation uses electronics, it won’t sound synthetic. A hallmark of Trimpin’s inventions is the use of some kind of electronic medium to create an acoustic sound, rather than simply creating electronic sounds. Nearly all of his installations produce sound in one way or another, although most don’t feature live musicians. "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 or the timing, it can be pushed over the limits."

The [untitled] installation and premiere is only one of the incredible experiences Trimpin will create while in residence with the Seattle Symphony. Ten high school students have already begun working with him through the Young Composers Workshop and many of them will compose a new piece specifically written for the Benaroya Hall installation. These pieces will be premiered on June 1 at the free Young Composers annual showcase performance featuring Seattle Symphony musicians and hosted by Classical KING FM’s Dave Beck.  Additionally, third-graders throughout Seattle will participate in Science of Sound workshops inspired by Trimpin where they will create their own instruments out of PVC pipe and various mouthpieces as they explore sound and vibration.

In anticipation of the May 1 premiere at [untitled] the Seattle Symphony is inviting the public to make their own instruments with found objects to help build a virtual library of new sounds for participants to create their own music. Visit for more information.

By James Holt

Posted on April 15, 2015