photo: installation view, Stattbad Wedding, Berlin, 2009
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Music Box Organism (2009)
site-specific installation for the swimming pool at Stattbad Wedding, Berlin

Materials: Push button, monofilament, floodlights, micro-controllers, 200 meter strip of white plastic, 5 stepper motor operated diatonic music boxes each tuned to a different microtonal offset.

As you entered the space on the upper balcony, you saw approximately 50 feet below you, an empty swimming pool, silently glowing with white flood lights. At the balcony railing there was a push button with a note inviting you to press the button. The moment the button was pressed the installation would suddenly come alive: motors humming, plastic strips sliding, coiling and scraping the floor of the pool, climbing up towards the diving board and falling down into the pool, with sparkling music box textures floating above the noise, articulating and reverberating in the cavernous space. After five minutes of life, the Music Box Organism would freeze, and become silent and motionless. In this moment of loss, I observed visitors sitting and pressing the button over and over to maintain the sonic atmosphere and the automaton’s sense of life.

The sound material of the piece is organized as one 100 meter loop of music, punched into the plastic strip, and threaded through the five music boxes. Each box is diatonic, but tuned to a different frequency and distributed spatially. All motors run at the same speed, allowing the time arrival of the musical material in the loop to be calculated by the distance between the boxes.

Documentation:
 
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Music Box Organism (2009)

Installation walk-through


 
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Music Box Organism (2009)

Photo: music boxes with hole punched plastic strips

 
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Music Box Organism (2009)

sketch for canon sections performed by music boxes

 
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Music Box Organism (2009)

sequence organization

 
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Music Box Organism (2009)

In a related piece, humans perform the music box loop


rama and jessie marino perform one roll for two music boxes at Miss Micks, Feb. 2009