BERKELEY, CA.- The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
presents Trimpin: Nancarrow Percussion Orchestra / MATRIX 244, a new sculptural sound installation by the Seattle-based artist Trimpin. The work is created in honor of the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the avant-garde expatriate American composer Conlon Nancarrow (191297), best known for his rhythmically complex and intensely layered compositions for the player and prepared piano. Trimpins performative installation results from several years of study and investigation and incorporates percussive instruments originally designed by Nancarrow, which Trimpin recovered from the composers Mexico City home and has carefully restored.
For this new installation, commissioned by Other Minds in collaboration with BAM/PFA, Trimpin has drawn on his deep understanding of and admiration for Nancarrows music and creative approach. Nancarrow spent several years of his life on a large scale, vacuum-actuated percussion orchestra, capable of performing rhythmically complex compositions on an array of hand-built ceramic and orchestral drums, wood blocks, gongs, and other instruments. Unable to achieve his desired results, Nancarrow eventually abandoned his dream orchestra. Over sixty years later, Trimpin has reimagined and rebuilt the orchestra using three salvaged upright pianos, which have been broken apart, reconfigured, mechanized as player pianos, and prepared to play a variety of Nancarrows scores, as well as Nancarrows drums, unveiled for the first time in this exhibition. The compositions are rearranged and fragmented across three pianos in short and varied pieces, and include some phrases from original Nancarrow rolls, seemingly punched for use by the percussion orchestra. The motion of visitors in the gallery triggers the acoustic environment, incorporating the audience and spatial environment into this work. The installation performs in real time over the course of the exhibition, with hundreds of feet of player-piano paper spilling out onto the gallery floor, expanding the piece into an evolving spatial performance of acoustic sound.