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Seattle Symphony Piece Feels ‘Like I Get To Play The Xbox’

Trimpin and Ludovic Morlot
Courtesy Seattle Symphony
The artist Trimpin and Seattle Symphony conductor Ludovic Morlot look over Trimpin's plans.

Trimpin is the kind of artist who defies neat description.

The German-born artist is a sculptor. He uses found objects to create large installations that move.

But Trimpin doesn’t just create kinetic sculpture. His artworks are musical; he uses wildly disparate objects -- a line of wooden shoes, huge bamboo cylinders -- to make artful instruments that perform his own compositions.

If you’ve been around Seattle for a time, you have probably seen a Trimpin creation. He installed a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption in the new terminal at Sea-Tac airport. His tower of electric guitars rises up through the Experience Music Project lobby, playing a crazy tune every time an EMP visitor puts the sculpture in motion.

In 1997, the mononymous Trimpin won a MacArthur “genius” grant in recognition of his wild creativity. These days you may find him hard at work in his Madrona studio. It’s a kind of madman’s laboratory, full of toys, electronic equipment, wires, screws and more.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Sound artist Trimpin's newest composition for the Seattle Symphony. ", "fid": "117282", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201504/trimpin-drawing-2.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy Seattle Symphony"}]]Mainly, Trimpin is a solitary inventor. But last year the Seattle Symphony invited him to become an artist in residence. He said of course, largely because he enjoyed new Music Director Ludovic Morlot’s programming choices.

“I was suddenly hearing works which were never even thought of to be performed in a symphony hall, you know.”

And now Trimpin’s newest composition will join that list.

He’s created a site-specific work for the Benaroya Hall lobby. “Above, Below and In Between” will feature some of Trimpin’s computerized creations, plus a cadre of human performers: nine instrumentalists, a vocalist and conductor Morlot, who confesses to being both excited and challenged by the composition.

“I’m not a typical composer,” says Trimpin.

That’s an understatement. Morlot and his musicians have a score, but Trimpin wants them to respond in the moment to reverberations they hear in the space, or from each other. Morlot will control the automated instruments with various arm motions that he says won’t be perfected until the instruments are actually installed at Benaroya.

“It’s like I get to play the X-box, you know? It’s really fun,” Morlot says with a laugh.

[asset-images[{"caption": "", "fid": "117283", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201504/trimpin-drawing.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy Seattle Symphony"}]]“Above, Below and In Between” will have just one performance, Friday evening, May 1. It’s part of a symphony series called [untitled]. And it won’t be recorded, because Trimpin believes people should experience his instruments and his music live and in the moment.

If you can’t make it to [untitled], Trimpin’s automated instruments will be in the Benaroya Hall lobby through at least mid-May. The lobby will be open to the public 12-2 p.m. Mondays through then.