Trimpin: The Sound of Invention

“Not a composer, but an inventor of genius” was Arnold Schoenberg’s description of John Cage, and the phrase is even more apt for Seattle-based, German-born Trimpin, subject of Peter Esmonde’s 2009 doc. As an artist, Trimpin’s staked out territory where sculpture, installations, computer technology, and musical instruments overlap, continuing Cage’s legacy of finding beautiful sounds where no one else would think to look, his DIY, tinkering-in-the-garage spirit, and his unflappable, unaggressive demeanor. Probably his best-known work, locally, is his spectacular tower of self-playing guitars at EMP; Esmonde takes us concisely through the project from conception to completion. He visits a few of Trimpin’s other constructions as well—the locations of which are never identified. It’s an irritation that grows more acute the more beguiling the work; I’d gladly travel to see Trimpin’s Seismofon, arrays of tuned tubes strung across some ceiling somewhere played by automated clappers that respond to Internet-posted earthquake data—but where is it? Is it still up? (Yeah, I could Google it, but that’s no excuse for Esmonde not including any informational captions.) The Seismofon’s warmly woody rippling—imagine that the Close Encounters aliens had a marimba band on that trippy starship—is a prime example of Trimpin’s guiding belief that sound is always the end, gadgetry the means; no matter how intricate his machines, the music that travels from them to your ear is what’s most enthralling. (NR) GAVIN BORCHERT

Thu., Feb. 10, 8 p.m., 2011

 
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