Gerhard Trimpin: Mad Scientist of Sound

Gerhard Trimpin, commonly known simply as Trimpin, is a Seattle-based kinetic sculptor and sound artist. Born and raised in Istein, Germany, he learned most of his trade from his father. A player of both wood and brass instruments, Trimpin took up the latter at a young age and soon developed an allergy to some of the metals used in the instruments, forcing him to quit playing. He then turned his attention to natural sounds and the relativity of sound in space. His father would take him into the woods and play him songs so he could walk around the surrounding forest, noting the subtle changes in his father’s playing.

After studying at the University of Berlin, Trimpin moved to Seattle in search of outdated technological components, which were more difficult to obtain in his home country. Throughout the early 1980s, he spent his winters fishing in Alaska to fund the coming year’s work. Before there was MIDI, Trimpin invented his own custom protocol, eventually transferring his works over when MIDI finally arrived. Preferring to use computer-driven components to the instruments themselves, he believes that loudspeaker design, which has remained the same for nearly 100 years, is unable to produce a high enough quality and range of tone to accurately re-create anything played in the traditional sense. However, he has broken his rule once. When he was commissioned by the Seattle Experience Music Project, he installed Roots and Branches: dozens of electric guitars wired in sequence to play only one note each, coming together to create a rich series of tunes. The sound is produced via loudspeaker and headphone modules located at the bottom of the contraption.

These days, Trimpin is still tinkering in his workshop, laughing at squeaking bottles, dropping glass vases, and whatever other quirky ways he manages to do what he does. Most recently, he has broken another one of his rules and let a documentary crew follow him around on an adventure inside his mind. Trimpin: The Sound of Invention should prove to be a treat for audio-visual fans everywhere.

Showing us that his personal rules may really mean nothing, there’s a great section of the film showcasing the preparation of a concert with the Kronos Quartet.

The film was first showcased at SXSW, and is still currently making its rounds. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it’s coming our way anytime soon. If you want to follow the film and send fan mail telling them to come to L.A., you should find your way over to its official website. There are a few tidbits from the film, as well as other mini docs on him via Youtube. Other than that, your best bet may be to move a little north.

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    • Niek van der Meer
    • March 10th, 2010

    Good story about an interesting man!

    • Brandon Scales
    • March 11th, 2010

    thank you.I think hes pretty cool.

    ~brandon

  1. April 28th, 2010
  2. September 15th, 2010

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