Musical Automata

Publik Secrets member George Rahi has developed a collection of kinetic sound installations at the Hadden Park fieldhouse studio, blending acoustic instruments, mechanical systems, and electronics into sculptural forms that interact with their environment.

no tree is untouched by the wind (2018)

‘no tree is untouched by the wind’ is a sound installation inspired by R. Murray Schafer’s contemplation of utopian soundscape design strategies and methods of ‘re-tuning’ the world. In reference to the historical role that bells and other sounds played as an organizing principle and spatial-political tool within urban environments, the installation re-imagines the role of the bells in public spaces as a means towards conjuring new relationships between emplaced sounds and a listening public. Comprised of 15 individually suspended bell-like metallophones which autonomously ring via electro-magnetic mallets, the installation integrates an artistic practice in kinetic sound sculpture, new media technology, and acoustic instrument making. As a site-specific intervention, the distributed nature of the instrument is designed to map onto an existing environment, folding along its contours and exploring its spatial qualities as sculptural elements which frame the relationship between listeners and sound sources. Through this strategy of surround sound diffusion, the experience of each listener is constantly transformed as they move throughout the space, finding relationships held and revealed within the sonic architecture of each site.

aisatsana (2017)

Composed by Richard D. James (Aphex Twin), ‘aisatsana’ is a Satie-esque piano piece inviting stillness and careful listening to one’s surroundings. This mechanical reproduction uses a 100-year-old player piano to sound a custom-made paper roll of the piece. Set in Hadden Park, the piano is recorded alongside visiting starlings and crows in the canopy above, creating a “live” version of the bird song heard in Aphex Twin’s original version on the 2014 ‘Syro’ album. An homage to Richard’s signature blurring of the acoustic, electronic, and automatic realms of sound, the meeting of the programmed player piano and the park’s incidental ambiance invites one to reflect on notions of soundscape composition, ‘liveness’, and automation.

Pulsars (2016)

Pulsars is a sound installation that uses mechanical rotary speakers to explore sound, movement, and pulse. The work re-configures technologies associated with early 20th century era organ building tradition, when electronics were attempting to synthesize and recreate the acoustics of pipe organs. During this time, Donald Leslie invented the ‘Leslie’ rotary speaker to mimic the sonic quality of large, spatially dispersed pipe organs. In this piece I use 4 channel ‘Leslie’ rotary speaker array to sound a 25-minute composition to produce polyrhythmic  pulses and a heightened awareness of the environment’s spatial dynamics. The composite effect for the listener is a morphing and dynamic sense of space choreographed by the re-localizing movement of sound through the air.

Pulsars was featured at Vancouver New Music’s 2016 Mechanical Music Festival.