Musical Automata

Publik Secrets member George Rahi has developed a collection of kinetic sound installations at our Hadden Park fieldhouse studio and elsewhere, blending programmed/electronic music and acoustic instruments in sculptural forms.

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.

otonomi is a mechanical percussion contraption created with a toy metallophone, drums, hammers from an upright piano and electro-magnet switches from an electric organ. Inspired by the playful works of Trimpin and Conlon Nancarrow, otonomi is a meeting of programmed/electronic music and acoustic instruments in sculptural form.

Pulsars is a sound installation that uses re-purposed electronic and mechanical organ technology to create new experiences of sound, pulsation, and space. The project re-configures technologies associated with early 20th century era organ building tradtion, when electronics were changing how organs were constructed and perceived. 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 four ‘Leslie’ rotary speakers that were collected from aging electronic organs over a span of five years. A four-channel 25-minute composition is amplified through the speakers, specifically composed to produce polyphonic pulsing sensations and a heightened awareness of the environment’s spatial dynamics. The composite effect for the listener is an enlarged and excited sense of spaciousness by way of the active, choreographed re-localizing movement of sound in space.