Image: K. Farkas

It’s hard to wrap your head around the mix of technology, musical sophistication, and quirky craftsmanship that go into a Trimpin piece—but the resulting mechanical sound sculptures are easy to love. For his debut show at Winston Wächter gallery, titled Klavier-Stücke, Trimpin offers two of his signature music-making contraptions, punning on the German term “klavierstücke” by composing his “pieces for piano” on, literally, pieces of pianos.

Trimpin engineered the installations using piano innards and junk-shop salvage. With a nod to composers John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow, he “prepared” the soundboards to alter the timbre. For one of the sound pieces a motion detector starts the action. Another is played via a joystick, which activates computer-prompted pistons, bow wheels, bits of this and that, and even, Trimpin says, magnetic fields (don’t ask me). He gets the most delightful and amazing sounds, reminding us the piano is actually a stringed instrument that can also mimic the bounce of a gamelan and the tinkling burble of a music box. The makeshift appearance of the work doesn’t hide its elegance of concept and execution. 

A German émigré and Seattle resident since 1979, Trimpin’s international reputation as a creative genius rests on sound sculptures such as these, often too big or unwieldy to fit in the average home. So, for this gallery show, he made two groups of color silkscreen prints more suitable for the marketplace. The suite called In the Distance references his career as a performer and charmingly envisions his audience as notes on a musical score.

But the real corker of the show is hiding behind a mirror. Utterly wicked—and pure Trimpin—Absit Invidia (no offense intended) is a commentary on the state of the art world that includes a bit of self-reflection and a two-second dose of Thomas Kinkade. The piece costs a quarter to operate. Take extra change. It’s hilarious.

Trimpin: Klavier-Stücke
Jan 15–Feb 28, Winston Wächter Fine Art