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WATCH: Trimpin Oral History Live (1999)

Trimpin MoPOP Oral History Live

Did you know? World-renowned artist Trimpin, a Seattle-based sculptor of sound, created the musical permutations visitors hear when equipping the earphones attached to IF VI WAS IX, perhaps more commonly known as the eye-catching and Instagram-worthy giant tornado of guitars inside the Museum of Pop Culture. 



That's right, the rocking sculpture containing more than 500 musical instruments actually plays sound expressive of the roots of American popular music. Short stretches of music were played into a computer and organized by Trimpin into a continuous electronic composition, with notes assigned to specific instruments. Customized robotic guitars play one string at a time and work together to create the sound of one chord—a mechanical metaphor for how musical styles and traditions continue to influence one another.

In 1999, MoPOP sat down with Trimpin to record an oral history live. The video embedded below contains a clip of that conversation, showcasing some of Trimpin's first work.

Trimpin: "My first project was to build record players. At this time in 1980 memory didn't exist. You couldn't memorize, you couldn't sample sound. So what I did, I found pottery wheels, like the base of each record player, it's just like a pottery wheel and a motor was attached. So I could, from a keyboard, operate this record player. Sometimes you get a real rhythm, like a groove going with a certain kind of records, and it's every time different. So sometimes our instructional records like how to learn the language of money, or how to quit smoking without will power. When you use spoken text it was more like to do absurd conversation or some different rhythmic textures of different movement going on. So it was just a tool to use the record as a memory base."

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Music, MoPOP Don't Stop

About the author

The Museum of Pop Culture’s mission is to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities.