Musical Automata

Publik Secrets member George Rahi has developed a collection of kinetic sound installations at the Hadden Park fieldhouse studio and elsewhere, 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 that integrates an artistic practice in kinetic sound sculpture, new media technology, and acoustic instrument making. The installation is comprised of 15 individually suspended bell-like metallophones interfaced with electro-magnetically controlled mallets which can autonomously sound themselves. The work is inspired by R. Murray Schafer’s contemplation of utopian soundscape design strategies and methods of ‘re-tuning’ the world to provoke intimate listening to a location’s ambience and acoustic dynamics. 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.

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 and acoustic reproduction of ‘aisatsana’ uses a 100-year-old player piano to play a custom-made 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, the meeting of the programmed player piano and the park’s incidental soundscape 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.