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Thu, Sep 7 — Tue, Oct 31, 2017
Phil Dadson: shiver me timbres




















shiver me timbres” – solos and collaborations with a multi-voiced instrument by Phil Dadson.

During his 2016 summer residency at Headlands Centre for the Arts (Sausalito), New Zealand based artist/musician & instrument builder Phil Dadson converted an old, wooden ex-US Military store – building 961, into a sonic play-space, an expansive instrument with multiple voices that he worked in and performed on.

Dadson’s exhibition presents a range of the instruments and sonic objects he devised during the residency, including the ‘rocker-gamelan (an adapted rocking chair), the ‘rung-ladder’, wall and floor wires, wall rods and a set of his invented instruments – the Gloop spring-string-drum, song/stones, gliss-flutes and one of his tribute instruments, the BartHarmonic, dedicated to Bart Hopkin.  Video/audio documentation of his solo performances with wall-wires, floor-wires, wall-rods, rocker etc is exhibited in the window along with visual-music graphics by Dadson and a poster co-designed with Berlin based artist-friend Gwenaël Rattke (also a Headland’s resident during summer ’16), screen printed in Berlin by Rattke especially for the show.

(Headlands Residency courtesy of the James Wallace Arts Trust & Fulbright NZ).


About the Artist

Phil Dadson; sound & intermedia artist with a transdisciplinary practice including solo performances and exhibitions; building experimental instruments, video/sound installation, music composition & graphic scores, sound sculptures, sound-stories and improvisations with invented instruments; Founder of New Zealand’s most original rhythm/performance group, From Scratch. Following membership of the foundation group for Scratch Orchestra (London, 1969, with Cornelius Cardew, Michael Parsons & others), founded Scratch Orchestra (NZ), and later From Scratch (1974) – known internationally for its funky rhythms & cross-rmedia performances on original instruments. Co-authored The From Scratch Rhythm Workbook with Don McGlashan, published by Heineman USA – a hands-on manual of rhythm teaching games, exercises & invented instruments, derived via the from scratch experience.

Co-authored Slap tubes & Plosive Aerophones with Bart Hopkin, EMI 2007.

Awarded NZ Arts Foundation Artist Laureate 2001. Antarctic Artist fellowship 2003. ONZM 2005. Sanskriti Residency award 2007. 9Dragon Heads collective, Venice Biennale 2015, Wallace/Fulbright Headlands Residency award 2016.

Represented by Trish Clark Gallery, Auckland.

Thu, Sep 7 — Tue, Oct 31, 2017
The Imaginary Instruments of Dr. Seuss

The Imaginary Instruments of Dr. Seuss

The collected works of the legendary Dr Seuss (Ted Geisel) played a significant formulating role in my psyche is a child, as it did for much of my generation, as it does for my children to whom I still read these books.  Ted taught us the alphabet, anatomy, ethics, empathy, and most importantly, imagination.

For Ted, music was an integral part of life. This is evidenced throughout his books by the presentation of imaginary music often accompanied by illustrations of his imaginary musical instruments.

​- David Samas,Curator​

Mon, May 1 — Wed, Aug 30, 2017
Ivor Darreg: All Equal Divisions


All Equal Divisions is an exhibition of the work of Ivor Darreg who will have turned 100 on May 5, 2017. Megalyra instruments and original tuning charts from the Ivor Darreg Archives in San Diego are exhibited near the just intonation charts by Lou Harrison.

About the Artist

Ivor Darreg (1917-1994) was interested in both just intonations (tuning systems based on whole number frequencies ratios) and equal temperaments (tunings based on an even division of a pitch interval, such as the octave). He was fascinated by the unique aesthetic effect–the characteristic “mood”– created by each tuning. The charts included in this exhibit are representative of his thorough approach to comparative tuning system visualization. As an instrument maker he created another sort of tuning graphic in his Megalyras. These were two- or four-sided string instruments, playable with a slide, with the slide locations for various tunings laid out in full color along the necks.

Original tuning charts courtesy of Jonathan Glasier, curator of Sonic Arts Gallery in San Diego.

Wed, Jul 5 — Sun, Aug 27, 2017
MicroFest North: Parsing the Octave, Dennis Aman


This second gallery exhibit of MicroFest North presents the work of Dennis Aman and his furthering the work of Ivor Darreg in small equal temperaments.

“For the past few years, I have been building a set of instruments that will allow the duo The Living Earth Show (Guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson) to perform on equal divisions of the octave 1 – 24. (Our common Western tuning system is 12 Equal Divisions of the octave) For the guitars, this means replacing frets in precisely the wrong place, but for the percussion instruments, this means tuning bars of wood or metal to specific notes that sit between the cracks of the piano’s agreed upon pitch. Along the way, some instruments have suggested avenues for other instruments. Using a proximity sensor for a Theremin in the shape of Sputnik lead towards engineer Kristof Aldenderfer and I building an instrument that could be worn by a dancer. And a Jellophone, using the body’s electrical resistance to trigger notes has led to instruments in the shape of anything that can fit into a mold. And while I prefer the purely acoustic sounds that come from wood or metal, it’s hard to resist the creative opportunities that electronic prototyping kits like the Arduino and the Teensy afford. For example, working on the Go-Kart’s optical gears suggested making a replica of Leon Theremin’s 1931 Rhythmicon, seen by some as the world’s first drum machine. With such a variety of tools and manufacturing methods available, surely one of the biggest challenges is focusing on a single project.” -Dennis Aman

About the Artist

Dennis Aman, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, studied Electronic Music at San Francisco State with Richard Festinger and Composition privately with Dan Becker. He was a chorister with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and is currently a member of the Cornelius Cardew Choir. His compositions have been performed in Lithuania, Ukraine, Japan and most recently at the “Eclectic Salon” at Villa Aurora in Los Angeles.

In addition to writing and performing, Aman is a producer and co-host of “Music From Other Minds,” a weekly new music radio show on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco. He is passionate about modifying and building new acoustic instruments. Aman is currently completing a commission for Electric Guitar and Percussion duo, “The Living Earth Show.” This extended work consists of 24 Preludes and Fugues in Equal Divisions of the Octave [1 through 24], as well as the building of microtonal instruments required to realize the piece.



Mon, May 1 — Fri, Jun 30, 2017
Lou Harrison & Bill Colvig: Iconoclast Centennials

harrison-charles color

Iconoclast Centennials is a historical exhibition of invented instruments created by Bill Colvig, including original Lou Harrison just intonation tuning diagrams. On display will be rare original mimeos of tuning diagrams for Harrison’s just intonation zither as well as Colvig’s gamelan-like Tubaphone for Bill Alves, Coffee Can and Steel Pipe Sarons, Triangular Kanong and Bonang Pannerous; as well as a rasp, Clock Chime Guitar, Jangles and the Harmonic Series Instrument.

May 14, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the composer Lou Harrison. This year likewise marks the birthday centennial of Lou’s partner and musical collaborator Bill Colvig, born a hundred years ago on March 13.

In this exhibit, we celebrate their shared centennial with a collection of some of their most interesting and representative instruments. Lou Harrison’s interest in percussion, Indonesian gamelan and just intonation were already in place when he met Bill Colvig in 1967. These interests were further developed by diving deeper into the world of musical instrument making, and as a craftsman, engineer, musician and highly inventive thinker, Bill was eminently suited as a collaborator for such an excursion. Together—with Bill as the lead fabricator—the two embarked on a decades-long exploration of the timbral and tonal possibilities of instrument design. Best known are the instrument sets they created for performances of Lou’s compositions inspired by Indonesian gamelan, in the first stirrings of what came to be known as the American Gamelan movement. In addition to the gamelan-inspired instruments, they built a variety of instruments for exploration and analysis of just tunings and the harmonic series. Along the way they made a diversity of other oddities and one-offs. The instruments reflected Bill’s characteristic style of craftsmanship—imaginative yet functional—and Lou’s personal ornamental and decorative sense. All were tuned to the carefully conceived just scales upon which Lou built his music.

We are grateful for the assistance, suggestions, information and instrument loans offered by Larry Polansky, Willie Winant, David Bernstein and the Mills College Department of Music, Charles Hanson, University of Santa Cruz Library Special Collections, and Steed Cowart.

William (Bill) Colvig (March 13, 1917 – March 1, 2000) was an electrician and amateur musician who was composer Lou Harrison’s partner for 33 years, whom he met in San Francisco in 1967. Colvig helped design and construct the American gamelan used in works such as the puppet opera Young Caeser (1971), La Koro Sutro (1972), and the Suite for Violin and American Gamelan (1974). His influence as an instrument inventor drove Harrison’s explorations of tuning and timbre, and inspired generations of instrument inventors, helping to create a nexus for invention in the SF Bay Area.

Lou Harrison’s (1917-2003) music is characterized always by exquisite sonorities. Central to his pursuit of this quality was his concern with the particular tunings in which his works were to be realized. He did not seek exotic or revolutionary tunings so much as he searched for whatever tunings would be most right, most natural, most beautiful for the work at hand. Among other things, he had a particular interest in historical tunings—tunings developed before the dominance of 12-equal. It happens that Lou Harrison had a way with an ink pen as well (his calligraphy was beautiful), and this can be seen in the charts seen here representing early European temperaments.
Lou Harrison Archive MS132, University of California at Santa Cruz Special Collections

Thu, Mar 2 — Fri, Apr 28, 2017
Pacific Resonance

Artist Talk and Demonstration

Thursday, March 9, 2017, 6 to 8 PM
Join the artist for a free opening reception! Talk and demonstration will begin at 7 PM.

Sonic Windows is a series of immersive sound environments that feature binaural recordings of underwater landscapes from the Pacific Ocean – Wellington, New Zealand, Pier 39 San Francisco and Monterey Bay. The human ear is tuned for air and therefore not equipped to perceive distance and orientation underwater. Using a pair of spaced microphones, the artists were able to create an underwater stereo experience that is otherwise unattainable for the human ear. Inspired by the sailor’s ditty box, the listening stations were created from reclaimed boat timber.

Quiver is a metal sound sculpture that utilizes vibration transducers, contact microphones and touch sensors to explore material resonances and interdependent, nuanced control of sound.

Artist Statement

My work is built out of four main influences: Computer Music, New Musical Instrument Design, DIY Maker culture, and a deep relationship with the natural world, particularly the ocean.

Increasingly, I am looking for ways to reintegrate the natural acoustic resonances of the materials that make up traditional instruments – wood, metal, etc – into the instruments that we create to control computer music.

About the Artist

Sasha Leitman is a composer, artist, teacher and inventor.

Raised on the Central Coast of California, she began studying music and guitar at aged 11. Originally focused on composition, she also was an obsessive builder and tinkerer. Sound art and musical instrument design allow her to combine her musical interests with knowledge of electronics, woodworking, metal work, fabrication and computers.

She has spent the last ten years teaching and managing the Max Lab prototyping facilities at Stanford Unviersity’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. In July, she will move to Wellington, NZ to begin work on an engineering PhD exploring the design of computer music controllers inspired by the nuanced control of acoustic instruments.

Thu, Jan 12 — Tue, Feb 28, 2017
CMT Creates Music

Artist Talk and Demonstration

Thursday, January 12, 2017, 6 to 8 PM
Join the artist for a free opening reception! Talk and demonstration will begin at 7 PM.

Artist Statement

CMT Creates Music is an art project led by Tim Phillips to create awareness for Charcot Marie Tooth disease (CMT) through the creation and performance of experimental musical instruments. It is a unique collaboration between artists, musicians and experience with Charcot Marie Tooth disease.

The project facilitates the creation of new musical instruments by people with little to no previous experience of making them, but are highly skilled in other fields such as electrical engineering, filmmaking, bike racing, printmaking, teaching, to name a few. There are ten instruments so far, the results are diverse and unexpected, each bringing a new design process and new ways and needs to collaborate. These instruments have had a tendency to be large, so we have chosen three to exhibit in the Window Gallery, the Stringtotter, the Chime Forest and the Bubble Organ.

stringtotter-1 Stringtotter
By Nao Nakazawa (Filmmaker & Violinist)

The Stringtotter is the result of a violinist who has too much fun at the park.

A long two string bass is mounted to the topside of a teeter totter, requiring two people to play it as they ride the instrument; one plucking or bowing rhythm, one changing pitch. The string bass sounds are then amplified through an effects pedal, the variables of which are adjusted by the motion of the seesaw, meaning the sound changes depending on the position of the performers.

chime-forest-1 Chime Forest
By Sam Hernandez (Solar Engineer & Trombonist)

The Chime Forest is a patient electricians instrument, with careful repetition in its construction, the sound of a corralled wild force is the reward. The instrument consists of 18 glass vases, each with an electric motor suspended above it that can be raised and lowered by the performer. The motors have various things attached to the ends that throw the rotation off balance and make the motors jiggle. When the motors are lowered, they collide with the vases, making a tone. Since the motors are unbalanced, they bounce off the vases and then collide again, creating a fairly regular but unpredictable rhythm. Combining multiple motors creates evolving polyrhythms that are equally driven by happenstance as the performer.

bubble-organ-2 Bubble Organ
By Tim Phillips (Museum Designer, Accordionist, Sound Artist)

The Bubble Organ was created due to a fascination of bubbling tones and an effort to manually control them just enough to play music. The result is a wind instrument that has a system of manual bellows allowing the performer to blow bubbles into a variety of acoustic chambers filled with water. Each chamber plays differently pitched bubbling tones that can be either individual bursts or long drones that are acoustically amplified for the listener through exponential horns.

Online, ‘CMT Creates Music’ has used this unusual instrument making process to introduce people to the disease CMT. Conception of these instruments has been documented in a blog alongside personal experiences from people living with CMT, every post is half instrument design, half CMT experience. The two dialogues have fed enthusiasm for each other, taking turns to generate energy and discussion. The result is a project that was envisaged to be a month long and has now been running for nearly seven years with over 30 collaborators!

For more information visit

What is CMT?

A big problem with CMT is that people don’t know about it, even though it affect 1 in 2500 people in the US alone. This means that a huge number of people that have it are misdiagnosed and so suffer more than they need to.

CMT is short for Charcot Marie Tooth. It is a neurological disorder that causes damage to the peripheral nerves; a peripheral neuropathy. In very general terms, the connection between the brain and both muscles and sensory organs is damaged. For example, if someone touches a CMT patients foot, the foot senses it, but the message never gets to the brain, so they don’t feel it. CMT patients slowly lose normal use of the feet/legs and hands/arms as nerves to the extremities degenerate.

An international team of researchers, backed by the CMTA, have had a breakthrough in finding a cure and are currently working through the trial procedure. This project raises both money and awareness to support that cause.

Please tell someone else about CMT.
Thank you,

About the Artist

Tim Phillips is an English sound artist, musician and inventor based in Oakland, CA. His work looks at making people curious about sounds and rhythms, while using participation and collaboration to encourage interdisciplinary and unexpected outcomes.

Tim received a BA and MA in architecture from Sheffield University, England and has worked on public architecture and installations throughout Great Britain and France. He is currently a senior designer at an Oakland-based design studio, Gyroscope, Inc., designing interactive exhibits and artworks for museums and public spaces across the US.

Tim has CMT, so this project is close to his heart. It has become remarkable thanks to a community of generous collaborators that continue to open it in new directions.

Collaborating artists on CMT Creates Music
Charlie Gurke (Bartz Box)
Claire Phillips (Sound Swing)
HJ Mooij (Tinkler)
Maria Mortati (You Can Ring My Bells)
Meghann Welsh (Texture Harp)
Nao Nakazawa (Stringtotter)
Sam Hernandez (Chime Forest)
Will Longstreth (Musicycle)

Thu, Nov 10, 2016 — Wed, Jan 4, 2017
Krystyna Bobrowski, Sliding Sonorities

Artist Talk and Demonstration

Thursday, November 10, 2016, 6 to 8 PM
Join the artist for a free opening reception! Talk and demonstration will begin at 7 PM and will feature a performance of In Two Directions, for piano and electronics, 1998, with pianist Jennifer Peringer.

About Sliding Sonorities

The exhibit Sliding Sonorities explores the sonic manifestations of the physical motion of sliding in two original musical instruments by Krystyna Bobrowski, Gliss Glass and the Sliding Speaker Instrument. While the instruments may be played individually, the design of the exhibit encourages musical interaction, collaboration and cooperation among visitors.

photo by Anja Weber

Gliss Glass detail. Photo by Anja Weber

Gliss Glass
Krystyna Bobrowski

Gliss Glass is an original instrument consisting of a series of custom glass vessels of various sizes, filled with water, interconnected by a system of tubes and valves. Though much larger than a wineglass, the instrument is played in much the same way, by running a wet finger or hand around the rim. The glass vessels are lightly amplified to pick up subtle squeaks, sloshes and scrapes.

The musician controls the water level and flow through the instrument by manipulating the valves and vessel heights. As water drains or fills a glass vessel, the frequency rises or falls respectively. By making use of the basic principle of hydraulic equilibrium, the instrument creates naturally slow, shifting glissandos.

Gliss Glass was created by Krystyna Bobrowski during a residency at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany, 1997-98, and debuted by Bel Canto at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, Darmstadt, 1998.

Sliding Speaker Instrument
Krystyna Bobrowski

The Sliding Speaker Instrument consists of a loudspeaker tied to a string inside a five-foot long acrylic tube mounted in a modified cymbal stand. The loudspeaker acts as a moveable stop for the tube, in effect changing the tube’s length and resonance. As the musician slides the speaker up and down the tube, she slides through the harmonic resonances of the drone-like audio material being played. The Sliding Speaker Instrument was created by Krystyna Bobrowski and was debuted at the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, 2004.

Between Resonance
Gordon Shrigley
ink and graphite on paper, 94 x 71 cm, 1998
Exhibited courtesy of Image Music Text Gallery, London

The graphic score Between Resonance grew out of a collaboration with the composer Krystyna Bobrowski, during our time as artists’ in residence at the Academy Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany in 1998.

The drawn score is an attempt to find a graphic language to reflect the unique nature of the glass vessels Krystyna had invented and also the various ways each player’s hands interact with the instruments to make sound for the composition ‘Oceans in a box’.

Through reading the various symbols and hues on the drawings, a clear instruction of how to play is communicated through a process of direct translation via the accompanying key and also what might be considered as ‘semiotic filtration’, by which the drawing merely suggests the tone of the performance simply by the character of the various lines on the picture plane.

Gordon Shrigley, 2016.

Artist Statement

I make work based on my direct experience with sound and acoustic phenomena. Through installations, instrument building, composition, and improvisation, I invite people to actively share this experience in a cooperative way. Communication, social interaction and cooperation are all part of music making and community making in general; yet, they are often unspoken and unseen. What is the sound of cooperation?

Physics and acoustic phenomena inform my work. I use the acoustic principle of resonance to create a physical filter sweep in the Sliding Speaker Instrument; the physics of hydraulic equilibrium to create slow, shifting glissandos in the instrument Gliss Glass. These effects could be created easily with electronics alone; however, I choose to use the inherent limits of physical materials. With electronics I can make a glissando of any speed; with a vessel of water the glissando can only move as quickly as the water can drain. Choosing to work with physical limits creates a natural form and develops an intuitive understanding of the phenomenon behind them.

About the Artist

Bobrowski plays the Long Arm Kelp. Photo by Tom Djll.

Bobrowski plays the Long Arm Kelp. Photo by Tom Djll.

Krystyna Bobrowski is a composer, musician and sound artist. She designs and builds her own instruments using natural materials and everyday objects, often modifying an object’s sound through physical manipulation and/or the use of electronics. The sounds of rocks and rocking chairs, seaweed and wine glasses, twigs and motors, leaves and water-filled tubes have all found their way into her pieces. Bobrowski is most known for the Gliss Glass, an original instrument consisting of a series of custom glass vessels of various sizes, filled with water, and interconnected by a system of tubes and valves.

In addition to performing her own work, she has performed and recorded the pieces of other composers including David Behrman, Anthony Braxton, John Cage, Alvin Curran, Lou Harrison, Larry Polansky, Wendy Reid and Christian Wolff. She has performed a number of times with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and continues to collaborate with musicians in the Bay Area improvised music community. She performs and collaborates extensively with the improvisation ensemble Vorticella: Erin Espeland, Brenda Hutchinson and Karen Stackpole.

Bobrowski received her M.F.A. in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College and her B.A. in Computers and Music from Dartmouth College where she first met and studied with Christian Wolff. She lives in Oakland, CA and teaches at the College of San Mateo (CSM) where she instituted the CSM Electronic Music Program. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA, Headlands Center for the Arts, Marin, CA and the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany. Her scores are available through Frog Peak Music, a composers’ collective.

Thu, Sep 8 — Mon, Oct 31, 2016
Susan Rawcliffe: Music in Clay

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Thursday, September 8, 2016, 6 to 8 PM
Join the artist for a free opening reception! Talk and demonstration will begin at 7 PM.

Artist Statement

I make, play and research clay musical instruments: flutes, pipes, ocarinas, whistles, trumpets, didjeridus, and sound sculptures. Wanting to build a better flute, I began my research into the sounds and forms of archaic ceremonial flutes from prehispanic meso-American cultures, including the West Mexican, Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec. Making acoustical studies and then learning to play them unites a Western sensibility with ancient sounds, and can teach the next step for flute construction. Through reinvesting my insights, these flutes may evolve into new instruments that then inspire with their wonderful scale patterns and evocative timbres.

By cultivating peculiar acoustic systems, I can generate peculiar and sometimes extraordinary sounds. I love subtle up close differences between sounds, the interaction of breath & sound, and feeling sound in my body. Some are raw, like animals, like grief; others evoke human voices singing or crying; sometimes, strange tones buzz inside each head.

Many of my flutes and sound sculptures have highly unconventional shapes. I enjoy considering their appearance, how the air flows, and how each fits into hands and mouths. Sometimes I create a social sculpture with multiple flutes and whistles, suggesting opportunities for unique & potentially intimate interactions between sounds and between friends.

About the Artist

susanIn 2011, a Cultural Exchange International grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, enabled Susan Rawcliffe to play, measure & photograph over 300 prehispanic West-Mexican clay flutes from the Crossley-Holland Collection at the University of Wales, Bangor, UK. Past grants include several from the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; a McKnight Visiting Composer's grant from the American Composers Forum; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Past performances include: on and off Broadway, NYC; the Los Angeles Theater Center; the Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Neon Art, LA; and international festivals such as the Edinburgh Arts Festival, Scotland; Pipeline, Berlin, Germany; AudioArts, Krakow, Poland; and Sound Art, St. John, Canada.

Exhibitions include: the American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, CA; Yerba Buena, San Francisco; Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA; Winter Gardens, NYC; California Craft Museum, SF; the Renwick Gallery, Wash. DC; and P.S. #1, NYC.

Lectures include: the Smithsonian, Washington DC; the Metropolitan Museum, NYC; the Wats:on Festival for Interdisciplinary Artists at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA; the Acoustical Societies of America, Mexico & Iberoamerica; the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the International Study Group on Musical Archaeology, Germany.

Published works include both four scholarly musical archaeology articles on my research into prehispanic instruments, as well as many articles on my work as an artist creating & playing ceramic flutes, pipes, ocarinas, whistles, trumpets, didjeridus and sound sculptures.

For more information, visit

Thu, Jul 28 — Fri, Sep 2, 2016
Imaginary Mechanical Instruments


Imaginary Mechanical Instruments

Historical and Contemporary Prints

FREE Reception July 32, 26pm
at the Center for New Music
53.7 Taylor Street, San Francisco
with selected realizations and multi-touch applications by Ian Saxton

(Actual Free Reception August 26, 7pm, 55 Taylor Street, SF)

With images dating from 1618-1995, the variety of pure inventive genius on display includes excellent reproductions of JJ Grandville, Robert Fludd, and Johann Gottlob Kruger. Images from Experimental Musical Instruments Journal including Cloud 8 Archives by Hal Ramel contribute more contemporary works of fictional acoustic fantasy.

In a time of unprecedented activity and innovation in sound technology, a museum of imaginary musical instruments may seem unbearably twee. What could these phantasms have to do with the real instrumentarium that expands dizzyingly around us every day?

We believe that these artifacts matter now more than ever, when our world is held so powerfully in the thrall of real technologies and the often deterministic rhetoric that accompanies them. Imaginary instruments are relevant not as a form of escapism or unhinged fantasy, but precisely because they highlight the permeable boundaries between the actual and the possible. Just as, according to Jung, everything that appears in a dream represents an aspect of the dreamer’s psyche, all that the human mind dreams up is a commentary on the mundane realm we inhabit. To conceive of a counterfactual technology—whether impossible or merely impractical—is to make a statement about the empirical world, to shed light into the shadows of the real, and to proclaim the possibility of things being otherwise.

Although imaginary instruments have a history probably as long as that of human technology itself, they share with the aesthetics of modernism and the avant-garde a certain visionary impetus. Like the best new music, they issue a challenge to convention and posit the existence of alternative ways of hearing, thinking, feeling, and being. With this special exhibit, we share some of the most outlandish, delightful and intricate imaginary musical instruments from the last 400 years; may they inspire many more.

Guest Curators:
Deirdre Loughridge and Thomas Patteson
Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments

Thu, Jul 7 — Wed, Aug 31, 2016
Larnie Fox: Cranks and Other Noisemakers


crank03 (1)

Thursday, July 7, 2016, 6 to 8 PM
Join the artist for a free opening reception! Talk and demonstration will begin at 7 PM.

Artist Statement

I like to make things that other people think are “cool”. I like other people to make things that I think are “cool”.

I think the choice of “rules” is crucial for a work of art. I strive to be conscious of the “rules” that I am working with. A few of the “rules” of the pieces in front of you are as follows:

1. The piece must produce sound.
2. The piece must function as visual art.
3. The piece must be made primarily from recycled materials.
4. The piece must be made utilizing relatively low-tech techniques.

There is something about good art that strives to transcend categories that are later imposed on it. I value integrity and originality, in my work, and in the work of others.

About the Artist

Larnie Fox4147Larnie Fox is a visual and sound artist known for paintings, monumental bamboo sculpture, sound art, sound installations and performances. His kinetic/sound sculpture and paintings have been shown in one-person shows at The Lab, The Richmond Art Center and The Randall Museum, and in numerous group shows and performances. He directs the Crank Ensemble, a fourteen-member group that performs on hand-cranked instruments built by Larnie. He was commissioned to create and burn a 20 ft. bamboo and muslin windmill at Burning Man, and there he made and flew a bamboo airplane with his wife Bodil. Other collaborations with Bodil have included set design and construction for Theatre of Yugen’s “Cycle Plays” at Theatre Artaud (now Z Space), a giant kinetic dragonfly for the DuPage Museum near Chicago, and “Time Sensitive Materials” at Cricket Engine in Oakland, CA.

Fox is also an arts consultant currently representing the Estate of the painter Jon Schueler. He formerly was Executive Director of Arts Benicia and Director of the Children’s Fine Art Program for the City of Palo Alto at the Palo Alto Art Center. He has taught drawing, art appreciation and color design at Weber State College, Ogden, Utah, and drawing at the Community University in Bozeman, Montana. He is a founding member of 23five, a Bay Area non-profit that promotes sound art. He holds an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from the University of Utah, and a BA in Painting and Drawing from Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania, and lives, works and collaborates with his wife Bodil in Benicia, CA. He and Bodil are past resident artists at the Montalvo Art Center’s Lucas Artists Residency Program in Saratoga, CA.

Tue, May 10 — Thu, Jun 30, 2016
Kraut Kontrol by Trimpin

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Sunday, May 8, 5-7 PM

Join the artist for a free opening reception! Talk and demonstration will begin at 6 PM.

Trimpin will rebuild and install Kraut Kontrol, a unique sculptural instrument that has not been viewed since its premiere installation at the Orange County Museum of Art in 2001.

About the Artist

A sound sculptor, composer, engineer, and inventor, Trimpin has been called “one of the awesome musical geniuses of the early 21st century.” A specialist in interfacing computers with traditional instruments, he has developed ways of playing everything from giant marimbas to stacks of electric guitars via computer. Trimpin has been hailed in New York’s Village Voice as “a genius at circuitry and machinery as well as acoustics and musical structure [who] manufactures orchestras that play themselves.”

Born in southwestern Germany near the Black Forest, Trimpin spent several years living and studying in Berlin, working as a set designer and meeting up with artists from both Germany and the United States. He relocated to the States in 1979.

In 1997, Trimpin received both a MacArthur “Genius” Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship for his creative investigations of acoustic music in spatial relationship. In 2005-2007, museums and galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest mounted an extensive retrospective of Trimpin’s work; the New Yorker magazine profiled him; and local press hailed him as “a composer / sound artists / engineer / god.”

Yet Trimpin shuns the hype of the art world. To date, he has never been represented by a gallery or a dealer, and has never allowed recordings of his work to be commercially released.

Thu, Mar 3 — Mon, May 2, 2016
Bosky Jangle – Instruments by Bart Hopkin

Thursday, March 3, 6-8 PM
Join the artist for a free opening reception! Talk and demonstration will begin at 7 PM.

Artist Statement

Bosky Jangle is a foresty-feeling kinetic soundspace. In the past few years I’ve made several semi-self-playing instruments – musical instruments which, once set in motion, continue to sound of their own accord for some time, leaving the player free to layer in sounds from other sources. Bosky Jangle follows from this. Within the forest, you can give one of the bell tree branches a nudge to put it in motion, letting it dance about and ring for a bit. Soon you may randomly add in another bell-branch or two to bring in some new tonal color. After listening to the resulting blend for a time, perhaps you’ll add another branch to take the cumulative soundscape in some slightly different tonal direction. When you’ve arrived at an appealing mélange of ongoing bell tones, you can turn to one of the other instruments of the forest to improvise and melodize freely over the bells, occasionally pausing to alter the texture and tonality by activating new branches and bringing in fresh bell tones. Some of the nicest forest sounds come as the motions of the bells slowly die down, leaving ever more open textures as they settle into quietude.

About the Artist

Bart Hopkin is a musical instrument designer and maker; publisher, author and teacher on topics relating to musical instruments. From 1985 – 1999 he edited and published the journal Experimental Musical Instruments, focusing on unusual instruments with an emphasis on inventive contemporary work, primarily acoustic. During those years and since, he has published numerous books on diverse topics in instrument design and construction, as well as books and audio CDs presenting the work of contemporary instrument makers worldwide. In recent years he has served as co-curator for the Window Gallery exhibit space at Center for New Music in San Francisco. As an instrument maker, his work focuses on innovative application of acoustic principles to create both conventionally tuned instruments and more exotic sound sources.

Fri, Jan 1 — Mon, Feb 29, 2016
Oliver DiCicco – The Magnetic Series

waiting for the big one Pentode

Artist Talk and Demonstration
Thursday, January 7, 6 – 8 PM


My work is about the intersections of disciplines. The point where music, sculpture, mechanics and engineering meet, is an intriguing place for me. I try to create pieces that work on these many levels. My interest in music and sound comes from my many years as an audio engineer and musician. My passion for building and tinkering comes from an early childhood spent in my father’s workshop.

Inspired by the work of Harry Partch, I began building musical instrument sculpture in the late 80’s. That process led to the instruments that would become the Mobius Operandi ensemble. The group progressed from concerts to large inter-disciplinary performances. The performance pieces became the genesis for my work in kinetic sound sculpture. As the scope of the performances grew, the kinetic sculpture became an integral part of the pieces, with dancers, actors and musicians interacting with them.

My latest work explores my fascination with magnetic fields and feedback loops. I find the harmonic resonances and the visual movement of vibrating rods almost hypnotic, the random nature of the sound and the shifting interaction of the resonating frequencies, compelling. I’m drawn to the aesthetic of old analog and tube equipment, and have tried to capture the flavor of that era in the visual elements of the pieces.

PENTODE, utilizes shifting magnetic fields to create a feedback loop in the lengths of guitar strings suspended above electromagnets. The strings are positioned near electromagnetic pickups, the sound from the pickups is routed to an amplifier, the output of which feeds a speaker as well as the electromagnets. At the end of each string is a magnet which is repelled or attracted by the changing field in the electromagnets, causing the strings to resonate in a feedback mode.

OTYPE field effect, works on a similar principal to PENTODE. The piece is interactive, turning the large knob on the top of the base, will change the gain of the feedback, affecting the vibration of the rods, and the spinning of the rubber rings.

WAITING FOR THE BIG ONE uses electromagnets which are turned on an off sequentially by means of an optical switch. As the magnets are energized they attract and repel a magnet located in the base of the pendulum, this causes the pendulum to swing and gain momentum. The rocker arms below the magnets are repelled each time the magnet is on, which in turn causes vibrations in the metal rods at the end of the arms. The vibrations are amplified and fed to a pair of speakers. As the rods touch the rotating strings located below them, upper harmonics are created. The piece reminds me of a seismograph, hence the name.

Sun, Nov 1 — Thu, Dec 31, 2015
Sudhu Tewari: Tune for Minimal Smoke II

Sudhu Collage


Artist’s bio:

Sudhu Tewari has been called a professional bricoleur, junkyard maven and young audio-gadgeteer.   Sudhu builds electronic audio devices, electro-acoustic musical instruments, kinetic sculpture, interactive installations, wearable sound art, mechanical televisions, physical models of astrophysical phenomena, and sound sculpture.  Highly educated at Mills College in electronic music, Tewari has been seen performing improvised music on the east and west coasts of the US, Europe, and Japan. In 2006 Sudhu was selected to be the Artist in Residence program at the Recology in San Francisco. Since then, Tewari’s visual and interactive art has been exhibited at many galleries and museums in the Bay Area and a few in Europe. Tewari is currently a PhD candidate at UC Santa Cruz in the Cultural Musicology program. Sudhu also teaches youth and adult classes at the Crucible in Oakland and has recently been working with young adults to create interactive, kinetic, and musical public art works.

Artist’s statement:

I build non-traditional, experimental instruments. “Experimental” means the instruments themselves are experiments based on the question “what happens if I do this?” or “what if _______?” Innovation and experimentation are far more important to me than creating beautifully finished instruments. I’d rather have a pile of prototypes (on a pile of protoypes), suprises that present a plethora of options for future work.

I enjoy being surprised by music. After many years of playing improvised music I lost interest in my own playing, finding it harder and harder to surprise myself. One solution had been to continually build new “peripheral” instruments which could be plugged into my main instrument: a metal stereo receiver chassis to which were affixed a variety of sound making devices, amplified with contact microphones, electret microphones and electro acoustic pickups, which at various times has been named SHOZYG (Hugh Davies), Electro-acoustic Percussion Box (Tom Nunn), or heavily modified readymade (Fred Frith). Some of these peripherals, acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic, and new experiments will be displayed in this show.

Another solution is to build self-governing/playing instruments so that I could turn them on, watch, listen, and occasionally be surprised. Thanks to the commission from Music for People and Thingamajigs I am able to return to building/experimenting with a large-scale self-governing instrument, my Prepared Player Piano Pinball system (PPPPs). PPPPs consists of several electronically controlled “interpretors”, devices that perform a simple function which is, often counter to the purpose of other interpretors, creating web of complex interactivity based on the simplest reactive behaviours. Since the system is built from individual “modules” it is infinitely expandable (inspired by Jean Tingueley) and provides me with a lifelong project into which I can integrate all of the pieces of my substantial collection of useful (suefule) junk. What will be presented in November at the Center for New Music represents merely an iteration of a much larger (future) work that will never be complete.

Yet another solution is to create instruments for others to play, a means of extracting, vicariously, the pleasure of new experiences from others. Additionally, these non-traditional instruments are free of traditional expectations. “But, I don’t know how to play that instrument.” is not a hindrance/obstacle to people (musicians) who walk in off the street and play my instruments.

Finding that most people (unlike myself) are visually biased, my sculptural and kinetic instruments attempt to draw the viewer in to a sound world by providing engaging visual elements as “bait”. Other pieces react to a human’s presence in ways that are not immediately (if ever) apparent, requesting humans to spend time with them without understanding “what’s going on.”

In writing a dissertation on the work of Tom Nunn, instrument builder extraordinaire, I’ve been inspired to steal elements (physical and conceptual) from his instruments to try out in new ways. These elements appear in all my newly created work, along with elements inspired by Jean Tingueley, Hugh Davies, Fred Frith, Bart Hopkin, and Peter Whitehead, amongst others.

Above all, my instruments and devices are meant to be FUN!

Less tuxedos, conductor batons, compositional hierarchies, ruffled sleeves, serious Classical music, more free-for-all, bare feet in the grass, toothbrushes cleaning the street, pianos playing nothing, hippie bullshit vibrating together.

Fri, Sep 4 — Fri, Oct 30, 2015
Sung Kim: Failures, Prototypes, and Works In Progress


Artist Talk and Demonstration
Thursday, October 1, 6 – 8 PM

To open the Thingamajigs Festival (Oct. 1-2-3-4)

10683687_10205585043333260_5429497557417000870_oSung Kim (b. 1975) is an improvisor, sculptor, and instrument builder born in Seoul, Korea, and raised in Washington, D.C. In 1989, Kim studied ceramic sculpture at the Corcoran School of Art. It was at Corcoran that Kim started building his own variations of the guitar. Kim received his BFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999. In Chicago, Kim began to deviate from the guitar to explore other techniques, tonalities, and sympathetic resonance. He also began collaborating with musicians to explore his instruments in an improvisational context. Kim now facilitates his musical and sculptural endeavors by owning and operating an architectural woodworking design/build studio in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My work as an instrument builder was born out of the necessity to create a voice for myself to articulate and to compose. My instruments are all works in progress and by treating them as such, I allow myself to constantly develop and build in an organic manner. Many of these pieces begin as individual components built as I develop solutions dealing with mechanics, playing techniques, and resonance. These components are then combined, modified, or discarded as needed.



Thu, Jul 9 — Fri, Aug 28, 2015
New American Gamelan Instruments by Daniel Schmidt


Daniel Schmidt has built the instruments displayed in this installation over the last five years with the help of students and alumni from Mills College. The bonang (the aluminum discs that look like flying saucers) and the slenthem (the lower range metallophone with a soft attack and long sustain) have been built in the last 2 years.

This gamelan is an aluminum set using the septimal just tuning for slendro used by Lou Harrison. The new set is unnamed, as it is not yet complete. If you have any suggestions, please let us know!

About the Artist

Daniel Schmidt Likes to take the scenic route. He spent the latter half of the 20th century dividing his efforts between electronic music, mixed media work, theater based activities, instrument design and building, singing, teaching, and performing and writing for traditional and American Gamelan. He has worked with Allan Kaprow, studied with K.R.T. Wasitodiningrat, helped build the electronic music studios at Cal Arts, and has built numerous aluminum gamelans. He has been the director of the Berkeley Gamelan, the Eugene Chamber Theater, and currently directs the gamelan ensembles at Mills College and the Universal Unitarian Church of Berkeley.

Although Schmidt’s pieces utilize a wide variety of different media (electronic tape based work, traditional acoustic instrumental work, mixed media work, etc.), there is always some undercurrent of experimentation; rhythmic oddities, the creation of specialized instruments, novel approaches to performance and performer interaction, and many other approaches.

Daniel Schmidt’s work as an instrument builder his highlighted by a long-time collaboration with the Paul Dresher Ensemble, and notable commissions from the Boston and San Francisco Symphonies, the Exploratorium, and North Texas State and Sonoma State Universities. Schmidt received his BA in music from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, NJ and his MFA in composition and Javanese Music from California Institute of the Arts.

Thu, May 7 — Mon, Jun 29, 2015
Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector: Instruments from the Kronos Quartet and Terry Riley collections

Opening Reception: Thursday, May 7, 6 – 8 PM


Kronos Quartet and Terry Riley began their decades-long friendship at Mills College in the late 1970s. Since then, Kronos has commissioned 28 works from Riley, more than from any other composer in the group’s history. This exhibit offers a peek into the sound worlds composer and quartet continue to create together, including original instruments by Walter Kitundu, vintage synthesizers, and shamanic plants.

In honor of Terry Riley’s 80th birthday, Kronos Quartet / Kronos Performing Arts Association announces KRONOS PRESENTS: Terry Riley Festival, a three-day festival, June 26-28 at the SFJAZZ Center, featuring performances of several of the composer’s most significant and rarely-performed works, with special guests Zakir Hussain, Wu Man, The Living Earth Show, Gyan Riley and Terry Riley himself.

More Info and Tickets

Wed, Apr 1 — Fri, May 1, 2015
Visual Harmony: Contemporary Tuning Graphics

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Most music in the western world uses a particular tuning system known as 12-Tone Equal Temperament. Over the last 200 years and more, this system has proven effective and extremely practical. But infinitely many other tuning systems are possible, and the argument can be made that some other systems reflect more naturally the way our ears and musical brains perceive and interpret musical intervals. In the 1960s and ‘70s, a number of composers and theorists began exploring anew the possibilities for musical scales outside the realm of 12-equal. This was by no means a new idea, but these thinkers brought a renewed energy and focus to the subject that continues strong among musical theorists to this day. This exhibit celebrates five of the leading lights of that movement.

The analysis of musical scales has its foundation in mathematics – a mathematics based on the frequencies of the pitches involved and the relationships between those frequencies. Scale analysis lends itself particularly well to geometric interpretation, with pitch relationships represented as spatial configurations. In the images displayed here, theorists and artists use graphics to illustrate the relationships and operations underlying diverse musical scales. Some of these images may originally have been designed primarily as diagrammatic and informational documents; others clearly were intended as art. In fact, all are both: in the mathematics of scale expressed as geometry, we find visual harmony.

Lou Harrison (1917-2003)

Lou Harrison’s music is characterized always by exquisite sonorities. Central to his pursuit of this quality was his concern with the particular tunings in which his works were to be realized. He did not seek exotic or revolutionary tunings so much as he searched for whatever tunings would be most right, most natural, most beautiful for the work at hand. Among other things, he had a particular interest in historical tunings – tunings developed before the dominance of 12-equal. It happens that Lou Harrison had a way with an ink pen as well (his calligraphy was beautiful), and this can be seen in the charts seen here representing early European temperaments.

Lou Harrison Archive MS132, University of California at Santa Cruz Special Collections

Harry Partch (1901-1974)

Harry Partch’s primary interest was in just intonation – which is to say, tuning systems based on ratios between whole numbers – and in broadening the tonal resources available to composers by expanding the range of ratios that listeners could accept as musically meaningful. In pursuing this he was “seduced” into instrument making, and in many of his instruments the implicit logic and geometry of the tuning systems was reflected as two-dimensional arrays in the spatial layout of the sounding elements. Many of his ideas also take shape as diagrammatic representations of pitch relationships, as can be seen in his pieces exhibited here.

Tonality Diamond used by permission of Innova Recordings, from Enclosure Three: Harry Partch.

Ervin Wilson (b 1928)

Erv Wilson’s primary role has been not that of the composer, but that of one who creates the systems with which composers can work – or, more accurately, one who seeks to illuminate the tonal possibilities available to all. The mathematical organizing principals that underlie his explorations provide illuminating ways to think about scales of all sorts, and, beyond that, to think about an infinite, non-static universe of possible scales. He has represented his ideas in two-dimensional charts as can be seen in the graphics reproduced here, as well as three-dimensional physical models, and more abstractly as multidimensional spaces.

Graphics courtesy of the Erv Wilson Archive, Kraig Grady, curator.

John Chalmers (b 1940)

John Chalmers has published extensively in the field of tuning theory, both as author of his own works and as founder of the journal Xenharmonikon. In recent years he has used computer graphic software to generate exquisite realizations of scale geometry as color images in print and on the screen. Each of his prints in this exhibit represents a particular scale, the image resulting from the functional relationships of the scale translated into location and color.

Images courtesy of John Chalmers. More images can be found on the John H. Chalmers Facebook page.

Ivor Darreg (1917-1994)

Ivor Darreg was interested in both just intonations (tuning systems based on the ratios between the frequencies of the pitches) and equal temperaments (tunings with pitches equally spaced through the octave, which require a different mathematical approach). He was fascinated by the unique aesthetic effect – the characteristic “mood”, in his word – created by each tuning. The charts included in this exhibit are representative of his tuning graphics. As an instrument maker he created another sort of tuning graphic in his Megalyras. These were two- or four-sided string instruments, playable with a slide, with the slide locations for various tunings laid out in full color along the necks.

Original tuning charts courtesy of the Sonic Arts Gallery in San Diego, Jonathan Glasier, curator.

The Window Gallery thanks the following people for generous assistance with this exhibit: Dennis Aman, Philip Blackburn, Steve Brock, John Chalmers, Jonathan Glasier, Kraig Grady, Charles Hanson, Larry Polansky, Ian Saxton.

Sun, Mar 1 — Wed, Apr 1, 2015
Images from an Unseen World

the CymaGlyphs of John Stuart Reid

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The Cymascope is a new type of scientific instrument that makes sound visible by converting vibrations of sound to vibrations in water.

The resulting images are both scientifically intriguing and artistically beautiful, leaving a lasting impression of an unseen world.

John Stuart Reid (b. 1948) is an English acoustics engineer, scientist and inventor. He has studied the world of sound for over 30 years and speaks extensively on his research findings to audiences throughout the United States and the United Kingdom. Co-inventor of the CymaScope, John’s work is inspired by acoustic pioneers, Ernst Chladni, Mary D. Waller and Hans Jenny and has taken their findings to a new level. His primary interests lie in investigating sound as a formative force and discovering why sound heals.

The CymaScope represents the first scientific instrument that can give us a visual image of sound and vibration – a cymatic image – helping us to understand our world and universe in ways previously hidden from view. The CymaScope holds the same potential for advancement as the microscope and telescope and its applications are on the brink of touching every aspect of human endeavor.

Sat, Jan 10 — Thu, Jan 15, 2015
Felt Has Feelings by Bryan Day

Reception & Artist Talk: Saturday, January 10, 6-8 PM

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Bryan Day is a improviser, instrument inventor, illustrator and installation artist based in Richmond, CA. His work involves combining elements of the natural and man-made world using field recordings, custom audio generation software and homemade instruments. Day?s work explores the parallels between the patterns and systems in nature to those in contemporary society.

Day has toured throughout the US, Europe, Japan, Korea, Argentina and Mexico, performing both solo as Sistrum and Eloine and in the Shelf Life and Seeded Plain ensembles.

dayeditFestival appearances include Thingamajigs Festival (San Francisco, 2013), New Media Sound and Art Summit (Austin, 2013), Milwaukee Noise Festival (Milwaukee, 2012), Denver Noise Festival (Denver, 2011), Heliotrope Festival (Minneapolis, 2010), Megapolis Festival (Baltimore, 2010), Denver Noise Festival (Denver, 2010), Transistor Festival (Denver, 2009), Quiet Music Festival (Cork, Ireland, 2008), Sonic Circuits Festival (Washington, D.C., 2007), Soundfield Festival (Chicago, 2005), and SubZero Festival (Minneapolis, 2001). Day has over 40 solo and ensemble releases on labels such as Creative Sources, Bug Incision, Friends and Relatives, Gameboy, Freedom From, Digitalis, Featherspines, Neus-318, Journal of Experimental Fiction, Unread, and Seagull.

Mon, Dec 1 — Wed, Dec 31, 2014
Instruments by Dan Gottwald

Reception & Artist Talk: Monday, December 22, 6-8 PM

Dan Gottwald is a sculptor, instrument builder, video/installation/performance artist and composer. His work focuses largely on the tactile and the sonic as temporary events.

Gottwald’s work has been shown and performed in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico as well as in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, California. Gottwald holds a BFA in Studio Arts from the University of New Mexico (where he ended up making music) and is currently pursuing an MFA in Electronic Music at Mills College (where he mostly makes sculptures). He is the artistic director and curator of the Analogous Ensemble, a performance collective dedicated to visual arts, music and dance incorporating new instruments.

IMG_3336“My interest in touch is derived from sound and my interest in sound from touch. These driving forces in turn influence my love of the visual aspects of form and performance. In order to hear a sound we need a body to be touched by the rarified molecules of vibrating matter we understand as sound. In order to make a sound we need a body to affect matter. A musical instrument is mid-way between these conditions. It is the thing to touch and it is the thing that makes sound. To take these aspects of form and create something new to explore is my attempt to broaden the field of creative and performative experience. I relish the challenge of making a form inviting, responsive and durable enough to be that kind of interface.

“Whether it is an audience allowed to interact with a piece, the result of a piece acting on an audience or regularly independent media acting together, it is the point of contact, the action of touch and repercussions of those interactions that I find compelling. I believe in blurry lines and I enjoy playing in those material and conceptual spaces where it becomes difficult to classify or discern one thing from the next.”

Visit for more information.

Thu, Sep 4 — Fri, Oct 31, 2014
Skatchboxes and Skatchplates by Tom Nunn

Opening Reception: Thursday, October 2: 6-8 PM

Photos by David Michalak

Tom Nunn will be exhibiting a number of Skatchboxes and Skatchplates. The Skatchboxes here are part of a series of painted Skatchboxes called “Paintboxes,” created between April 2013 and February 2014. The Skatchboxes are made of cardboard boxes that originally contained computer parts (larger boxes) or computer keyboards (smaller boxes). Various objects are glued to the surface of the box and played with specially shaped soft plastic combs. The sounds are amplified using contact microphones (piezo pickups) taped to the underside of the playing surface (inside the box).

Skatchplates are similar in the objects used and the use of pickups, but the body of the instrument has a flat triangular shape with open ends – the result of simply folding a single sheet of cardboard at two points. The small panel is made to fold under the playing surface for compact packing/carrying.

About the Artist

Tom Nunn has designed, built and performed with original musical instruments since 1976, and has built over 250 instruments. His instruments typically utilize commonly available materials, are sculptural in appearance, utilize contact microphones for amplification, and are designed specifically for improvisation with elements of ambiguity, unpredictability and nonlinearity. Tom has performed extensively throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for over 30 years, as well as in other parts of the U.S., Canada, Europe, and New Zealand, both as soloist and with other musicians. Tom also performs with T.D. SKATCHIT, RTD3, MUSIC FOR HARD TIMES, and GHOST IN THE HOUSE and has appeared on a number of recordings, including his solo CD, Identity (2007), T.D. Skatchit & Company (2009), Skatch Migration (2010), Skatch Surveillance (2012), and Ear of the Storm (2013) (Edgetone Records). In 1998, he self-published WISDOM OF THE IMPULSE: ON THE NATURE OF MUSICAL FREE IMPROVISATION.

Thu, Jul 3 — Sun, Aug 31, 2014
Of Land and Sea: Natural-Object Instruments by Cheryl E. Leonard

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Cheryl Leonard in performance and selected instruments, from opening reception. Photos by Michael Zelner. (Complete Set)

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When I first began investigating the musical potential of natural objects I simply duct-taped microphones to rocks, shells, bones, wood, pinecones, and leaves, and attempted to rub, tap, bow, brush, and tickle new sounds out of them. I soon realized these materials would be more sonorous and much easier to play if I mounted them somehow. So, using hand and power tools leftover from my days working as a satellite dish installer, I started constructing crude stands out of pieces of driftwood that were lying around my studio. Over time my practical instrument stands have evolved into increasingly elaborate musical sculptures, and I now consider the visual aspects of an instrument to be of equal importance with its sonic qualities.

One of the allures of creating music with natural materials is delving into the minutia of the very quiet, and most of my instruments are intended to be amplified. Microphones enable me to explore the subtle details of sounds produced by stones, driftwood, pinecones, penguin bones, icebergs, etc. I am fascinated and continually surprised by the voices these objects contain and the beautiful intricacies of their tones. Once I find a lexicon of sounds that intrigue me I shape them into musical forms that reflect, model, or demonstrate each piece’s theme. Most of my works are inspired by natural phenomena, structures, motions, or processes. Morphing ecosystems, water flow patterns, animal breathing rhythms, cloud formations, and the sculpting of mountains by glaciers are a few of the subjects my past projects have investigated.

A passion for wild and remote places drives my creative process. I try to imbue my works with the sense of wonder and awe I have when I encounter millions of baby frogs hopping through an old growth forest, stand on a mountain summit looking at a rainbow halo around my shadow, watch a giant iceberg upend, or feel the booms of a calving glacier resonate in my chest. In making music with natural objects I hope to inspire others to hear the world in new ways, to look at common materials as potential treasures, and to consider the human relationship within the natural world.

About the Artist

CPinebranch copyCheryl E. Leonard is a San Francisco-based composer, performer, and instrument builder. Over the last decade she has focused on investigating sounds, structures, and objects from the natural world. Many of her recent works cultivate stones, wood, water, ice, sand, shells, feathers, and bones as musical instruments. Leonard is fascinated by the subtle textures and intricacies of sounds, especially very quiet phenomena. She uses microphones to explore micro-aural worlds hidden within her sound sources and develops compositions that highlight the unique voices they contain. Her projects often feature one-of-a-kind sculptural instruments that are played live onstage and field recordings from remote locales.

Leonard holds a BA from Hampshire College and an MA from Mills College. Her music has been performed worldwide and her work with natural-object instruments has been featured on several television programs and in the video documentary Noisy People. Her collaborative works with visual artists Genevieve Swifte and Oona Stern have been exhibited in galleries in California, Norway, Australia, Mexico, and Argentina. Leonard has received grants from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, ASCAP, American Composers Forum, American Music Center, the Eric Stokes Fund, and Meet the Composer. She has been commissioned to create musical instruments and compositions for Kronos Quartet, Illuminated Corridor, and Michael Straus. Cheryl has been awarded residencies at Oberpfälzer Kunstlerhaus, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Arctic Circle, Villa Montalvo, and Engine 27. Recordings of her music are available from NEXMAP, Unusual Animals, Ubuibi, Pax, Evolving Door, Apraxia, 23 Five, The Lab, and Great Hoary Marmot Music.

Thu, May 1 — Mon, Jun 30, 2014
Giant Music Boxes and The Long Tube, by Brenda Hutchinson

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My work has always been more about invitation than instruction or direction. Engaging with sound in a mindful way has been the single most empowering aspect of my life. I believe in its transformative powers and have been inspired and committed to finding ways extend this experience to others.

Brenda Hutchinson was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1954. She is a composer and sound artist whose work is based on the cultivation and encouragement of openness in her own life and in those she works with. Hutchinson encourages participants to experiment with sound, share stories, and make music. She has spent the past 2 decades singing into a 9 1/2 foot tube and has designed a gestural interface for the Long Tube and MAX/MSP. Recently, Brenda has been developing a sound initiated drawing interface and assistive device to work with memory and cognitive impairment. She is also Groucho Parx, a member of the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse in Second Life.

Brenda’s exhibit in the window gallery of C4NM will feature her Giant Music Boxes and Long Tube:

Originally made for the Exploratorium, the Giant Music Box is an instrument/interactive exhibit that anyone can use to make music. It was my response to the challenge of creating an instrument and situation where people could play alone or with others and create something that “sounded good”. I have always loved the sound of those little music boxes and thought it would be wonderful to extend that private experience to a shared opportunity for music making.

LongTubeWhile the Giant Music box is obviously an object created expressly for making music, the Long Tube became an instrument in the same way that a bucket or pair of sticks or any found object is transformed by the way it is played. The particular beauty of the Long Tube as a found object instrument is that it is interactive. The Long Tube is bionic and if you sing into it, something interesting will happen.

Part of the reason I perform with the Long Tube is to inspire other people to try because it is so simple and immediately rewarding as a musical instrument. Eventually my curiosity with expanding the sonic and interactive possibilities of the Long Tube overpowered my desire to demonstrate its egalitarian nature, and I developed a gestural interface to work with the computer and live performance.

Photo by Liz Keim

Hutchinson has presented her work at international festivals in New Zealand, Europe, Latin America and Canada. Venues in the United States include the Lincoln Center, Merkin Concert Hall and The Kitchen in New York and New Langton Arts, The Lab and The Exploratorium in San Francisco. She has produced work for National Public Radio’s Soundprint and is the recipient of: Gracie Allen Award from American Women in Radio and Television, Ucross Residency Award and Montalvo Artist Residency. She has received commissions from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest, National Endowment for the Arts, and McKnight Foundation, among others. Brenda has been an artist in residence at San Quentin Prison, Headlands Center for the Arts, Harvestworks, The Exploratorium and Djerassi Resident Artists Program.

Recordings of her work are available through TELLUS, DEEP LISTENING, THE AERIAL, O.O. DISCS, FROG PEAK MUSIC and Leonardo Music Magazine.

Join composer and sound artist Brenda Hutchinson for an opening reception on Thursday, May 1, 2014, from 6 to 8 PM.

Tue, Mar 4 — Wed, Apr 30, 2014
Experimental Musical Instruments by Peter Whitehead

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The exhibit represents a portion of the instruments created by Peter Whitehead over a 20 year period.

Whitehead is a composer, songwriter and instrument builder. His instrument building grew out of his earlier work with sculpture made from found materials and a fascination with sound which began in childhood.

83380600While traveling in S.E. Asia in 1989 he realized he could combine sculpture, performance and music by constructing and playing original instruments. Having experimented with playing ‘found’ objects before this, it was at this time that he began to construct his first instruments. Many of his creations are derived from folk instruments from around the world and some are based on images of ancient instruments that no longer exist, although the materials used to construct them are modern or industrial.

Whitehead has composed songs and scores for film and dance using a variety of instruments ranging from found to invented to conventional. In recent years this palette has been expanded to include electronics and samples of found or invented instruments.

He has also composed for and performed with a number of prominent choreographers and dancers including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Susan Marshall & Company, Anna Halprin, Charles Moulton/Janice Garrett and Sarah Shelton Mann. His work has appeared in several films including “City of Ghosts” directed by Matt Dillon and “Following Sean” directed by Ralph Arlick.

Thanks to digital technology his music has been used for Television and Radio in over 30 countries.

Whitehead will be present at c4nm for an opening reception and instrument demonstration on Thursday, March 6, from 6 to 8 PM.

Tue, Jan 7 — Fri, Feb 28, 2014
Kronos at 40: Instruments from the Collection

Kronos at 40

This exhibit features large sculptural instruments that were created for Kronos by Walter Kitundu, Victor Gama and others. Violinist David Harrington explains: “Composers and fellow musicians have learned about our fascination with the wide world of sounds and now, to our delight, frequently bring us instrumental gifts to add to our collection. As our palette of musical colors has grown bigger, we have attempted to make Kronos sound like many different instruments.”

Works included:
1) Phonoharp by Walter Kitundu. Made for the piece Cerulean Suite III by Walter Kitundu.
2) Toha by Victor Gama. Made for the piece Rio Cunene by Victor Gama.
3) Beguèna Maridhia by Walter Kitundu. Made for the piece Suite from the Repertoire of Alèmu Aga arranged by Jacob Garchik.
4) Pendulum by Alexander V. Nichols. Made for the piece Pendulum Music by Steve Reich.
5) Trimpin violin by Trimpin. Made for the piece 4 Cast: Unpredictable by Trimpin and the Kronos Quartet.
6) Stroh viola by Walter Kitundu. Made for the piece Transylvanian Horn Courtship by Terry Riley.
7) Pendulum by Alexander V. Nichols. Made for the piece Pendulum Music by Steve Reich.
8) Zeta Music Systems Inc. electric violin.
9) Wooden Laterna cylinder by Panos Ioannidis. Made for the piece Strophe in Antistrophe by Magda Giannikou.

“In the last forty years the members of Kronos have played many instruments in addition to our bowed four-stringed ones we each began playing as kids. We have played an assortment of drums, bells, and gongs from many cultures, a wide range of keyboards such as a toy piano, casios, omnichords and stylophones and instruments from India [shruti box, tambura], Serbia [gusle], Brazil [caxixi] and instruments from many other lands, too. An Apache violin was made especially for one of our pieces as were individual turntables for another and a harp-cello inspired by the ancient Ethiopian beguena for yet another. We’ve loved playing all kinds of kids toys from around the world. We’ve turned artillery shells used in wars in Vietnam and Angola into musical objects and we’ve bowed barbed wire fences as well as drift wood. Recently we were bowing inflated surgical gloves for a song about sea pigs.

“Discovering hidden relationships within the huge family of instruments has been a delight. Composers and fellow musicians have learned about our fascination with the wide world of sounds and now, to our delight, frequently bring us instrumental gifts to add to our collection. As our palette of musical colors has grown bigger, we have attempted to make Kronos sound like many different instruments.

“We have found that the most important instruments we possess are our ears and keeping them fresh, nourished and curious is an essential part of our work. It is amazing how our violins, viola, and cello can take on new lives. We have learned that music celebrates life and is found wherever people find themselves. Plinking, plonking, blowing and bowing is fun to do and music itself is becoming larger, more mysterious and more difficult to define as time goes on.”

David Harrington
10 December, 2013

Fri, Nov 1 — Tue, Dec 31, 2013
Four Pieces: Works by Walter Kitundu

Artist Walter Kitundu brings his unique vision to the Center for New Music’s window gallery with FOUR PIECES, presented by Thingamajigs. Please join us for the opening reception, which will include an artist talk and brief performance.

We Are Everything We Are Not is a reflection on the nature of our personal and collective meanderings. It is a response to the self-oriented lens through which we tend to view the world. Our actions often have implications far beyond the span of our attention and the reach of our vision.

Thu, Sep 5 — Thu, Oct 31, 2013
Sound In Motion: the Sonic Clothing of Bob Marsh

The work of Bob Marsh over the past two and a half years in the creation of “sonic clothing” brings together, in a uniquely dynamic way, his passion for making sculpture, avnat-garde music and dance. Beginning with materials from everyday life—plastic water bottles, tape, newspaper pictures—he transforms them to highlight various sound producing capacities, both obvious and latent, and places the materials in an intimate position with our primary instrument: the human body. The dormant sounds are wakened by movements large and small and announce the existence of a new being.

For the showing at the Center for New Music, Marsh will create a new work from the drawings and constructions he’s made over the last three years following the dance classes with Anna Halprin. Anna frequently asks students to cast their movement experiences into another medium—drawing, or writing, or combinations thereof. Marsh will take his graphic and sculptural notes and turn them into an opportunity for movement.

Mon, Jul 1 — Thu, Aug 29, 2013
Invented Instruments by David Samas

This exhibition of work by David Samas features instruments fashioned from raw materials, for his chamber opera The Green Wood, a genre-bending sonic romp through the world’s forests. The Green Wood seeks to uncover the voice, point of view, and inner life of the forest soundscape as it evolves from the silence before dawn, through the ornate dawn call of the songbirds and voices of the rivers and trees, into the defining evening choir of frogs and wolves, ending in the stillness and reflection of the witching hours.

David Samas is a composer, cosmologist, poet, painter, performer, philosopher, farmer and father of 4; he is a practitioner and professor of arcane healing technologies and traditional magics, a field which includes massage, herbalism, hypnotherapy, psychoacoustics and shamanism. He has a BFA from the SF Art Institute in conceptual art and studied poetics at the New College of California, Vassar, Bennington, and SF State. As a young man he performed with the SF Boys Chorus, the SF Opera, and the SF Symphony with which he won a GRAMMY for the “best classical recording” of 1994. He also makes sacred geometry amulets and talismans, is an excellent cook, and self publishes small editions of handbound art books.

Fri, Apr 26 — Sun, Jun 30, 2013
Experimental Musical Instruments by Bart Hopkin

Bart Hopkin is a designer and builder of unconventional musical instruments, and a student of musical instruments worldwide. For many years he was publisher and editor of the quarterly journal Experimental Musical Instruments, and he has written several books on musical instruments and their construction. In playing the instruments and performing with them, his focus most recently has been on semi-self-playing instruments ― constructions which, once gotten started, will keep going for a while with just occasional interventions, leaving the player free to layer in sounds from other sources.

The sounds that can be heard intermittently in the room are recordings of Bart’s instruments, including some that are included in this display.

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The Window Gallery presents the work of contemporary makers of unusual and newly invented musical instruments, including emerging artists as well as recognized pioneers. The emphasis is on originality in concept and design, recognizing the seminal role of the search for new sounds in the expansion of musical horizons. Equally essential to the exhibits are notions of beauty, craft, and humor.

The Window Gallery is curated by Bart Hopkin and David Samas. Located at 55 Taylor Street in San Francisco, the gallery is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, and during performances.

Email the Gallery Manager for information, questions, comments or to propose an installation. View past installations.

Support the Window Gallery’s one-of-a-kind exhibits by making a contribution to the cause:

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Donation Total: $25.00

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The Window Gallery at the Center for New Music is supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2016-17.

The Window Gallery at the Center for New Music was supported by New Music USA in 2014.

The Window Gallery at the Center for New Music is supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2016-17.

The Window Gallery at the Center for New Music was supported by New Music USA in 2014.