Books & Talks

Big Trimpin: Seattle Sound Artist Unveils New Book at Town Hall

By Annie Rose Favreau June 22, 2011

Trimpin, the Seattle sound artist behind the EMP’s If VI Was IX (pictured), celebrates the release of his new book at Town Hall.

Trimpin. The name sounds familiar, right? It should: It belongs to the Seattle-based sound sculptor behind the Experience Music Project’s If VI Was IX, that tornado of self-picking, self-tuning guitars. “My work is always visualizing sound,” the artist says. "A blind person can hear the movement and a deaf person can see it.”

Although Trimpin’s work has appeared all over Seattle (remember KeyArena’s Hydraulis, the wall of water that responded to the movement of sports fans?), access to most of his projects is limited. Only a few of his sculptures are viewable; he doesn’t allow recordings of his music; and then there’s the problem of commercial viability. It’s kind of hard to purchase a Bunsen burner-powered organ designed to float on water while making duck call noises.

Published this month, coffee table book Trimpin: Contraptions for Art and Sound was designed to fill the void, and document—as best a 2D rendering can—the artist’s major works. The book is composed of passages by Trimpin, paragraphs lifted from museum programs, and essays by writers, composers, curators, and friends. “The (Un)Common Object” by Washington State University museum of art director Chris Bruce is a particularly insightful look at how Trimpin fits into the tradition of sculpture (hint: he doesn’t).

Illustrated with large photographs, the book’s visual style is geared toward clarity, not glamour shots. The most exciting images are the colorful sketches, diagrams, and blueprints of Trimpin’s outlandish contraptions. The designs take you inside Trimpin’s artistic process—a joyful collision of messiness and precision, music and science. It appeals to artists and tech geeks alike.

Trimpin’s known for a while he’s not quite like the rest of us: In the afterword, he thanks his parents for “ignoring the fourth-grade teacher’s warning that ‘there was something wrong with my logical way of thinking.’” But perhaps its us who should be thanking him.

Town Hall will host a launch party for Trimpin on June 24 at 6pm. The artist will be on hand to discuss the book and provide “a musical interlude.”

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