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The Trimpin Cover Story

Important Note: These articles are history and all references to upcoming meetings and contact addresses and phone numbers and other things that change with time should be ignored. I decided to leave them in for readability.

The Trimpin Cover Story


Born in the Black Forest, educated in Berlin, and with a work history so long he only uses the last ten years so that it will fit on his two page resume, Trimpin looks very comfortable sitting in his Wallingford studio. On the shelf behind him are mechanical dolls. Above him hang horns which are perhaps 15 feet long, and around them are timpani drums. A wooden shoe with a mallet and a solenoid mounted inside rests atop one of his mechanical inventions for driving an acoustic piano - 88 solenoids with felt tips which press down on the keys.

It was in this studio in 1989 that the "America-Holland Line" performance occured, in which two acoustic pianos were played simultaneously via Satellite connections. One phone line carried audio, while another carried MIDI. Trimpin invited about 12 people over to sit in his studio and listen. In Holland, a couple hundred people attended the performance. This was different in concept from the Electronic Cafe experiments, in that, as usual, Trimpin created acoustic music on both ends, not electronic, although his machines were triggered through MIDI.

That same year he created "Floating Klompen" in which a bunch of clogs like the one on the shelf were set afloat on a pond, clicking in response to a sequencer or interactive human control.

He has also created water percussion instruments that are as beautiful to look at as they are to hear. One can be found at the Museum Technorama in Switzerland just outside of Zurich.

Most of Trimpin's work these days is for museums and galleries. In the past about half of his pieces were for music festivals where he would make an interactive musical installation and then come in and perform on it.

At age 10 Trimpin started music lessons. He even had his own workshop as a boy and was always building interesting things. He collected tube radios and at one point took the cases off several of them, stacked them, and hooked up a pulley system between the knobs so that by tuning one radio, he would effect them all. He was always interested in kinetics.

From his early years as a boy Trimpin has been interested in the aspects of spatialization of natural sounds. He had to develop his own machines to drive acoustic instruments which were mounted in different locations in a room. This was before computers, and so to drive rapid sequences which could pan quickly about he would punch out disks which would affect hammers in a manner similar to a player piano.

Other than computers, which are used only as a tool to distribute data to his acoustic instruments, electronic musicians won't find that they have equipment in common with Trimpin. Trimpin works only with acoustic sounds. No amplification, synthesis, speakers or any other unnatural manipulation of sound is allowed.

In order to feed his passion for acoustic sound spatialization Trimpin has had an extensive and broad education. He had formal music training from 1958-1970. He had an apprenticeship in school for Electro-Mechanical Engineering from 1966-1973, and he holds a Masters degree in Sozial Pädagogik/ Music and Art from Berlin, where he lived for 10 years.

He moved to Seattle in 1979 because he wanted access to Hi-Tech junk. At that time in Germany he was not able to find the right sources for electronic parts, and it was hard to find used computers. Here in Seattle he found junkyards and shops that carried just what he needed. Trimpin showed me a photo sensitive controller he had built using parts out of a card reader from a computer.

At our next meeting, Trimpin will talk with us and share some slides of his installations. If you would like to see Trimpin perform, you can catch him at the Random Access show at COCA on Saturday, August 6th, and you can see an installation of his this September at Beyond Fast Forward.

See ya,

Enough! Back to!

Einar Ask /