Today at Instrument Builders Project, the participating artists gave short (well, actually, some were pretty long) presentations on their work, approach and key ideas. It was an important exercise in thinking through the form that the collaborations and works will take.

Ardi Gunawan talked about his interest in John Cage’s use of chance operations, specifically his implementation of the Chinese system ‘I Ching’ (or ‘book of changes’) as a methodology for generating compositional structures. Ardi has attempted to apply similar strategies to his sculptural practice, using chance to determine the relationships between objects, and the engagement of humans with those objects. Since Ardi’s presentation we’ve been thinking more about how instructions, scores, propositions and audience interventions might also constitute ‘instruments’ in this project.


Rod Cooper also has roots in sculpture (which is obvious considering the craftsmanship evident in his instruments). He recalled being taught early on that sculpture’s defining and most important characteristic is its three dimensionality. But later, as Rod’s engagement with music became deeper, he realised that sound – which occurs all around the listener, filling and echoing through space – offers a greater, more immersive dimensional experience. This revelation led to him selling his soul to the devil – ala notorious Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnston – however, as a devout atheist, for Rod the deal was much less complicated.

rod presentation

Asep Nata’s presentation focussed on his desire to revitalise his instrument of choice, the Karinding, by introducing it to new artists and extending the ways in which it can be played.  Asep’s knowledge as an instrument maker is highly developed, having learned in the workshops of master builders, but he’s careful not to confuse the, more traditional, craft of making with the ever-evolving practise of ‘playing’.

Next was Wukir Suryadi who gave a short performance using an instrument made 30 minutes earlier; a miniature guitar-like creation with metal prongs attached for Gamelan-style sonorities. It truly is remarkable, the quality and richness of the sound produced by Wukir’s instruments. At the end of an energised demonstration, which drew spontaneous applause, he stated, philosophically, that the centre of a piece of wood is the most precious and also most difficult part to access. Below is a picture of Wukir’s attempt to access the mythical ‘wood centre’.

Unknown Instrument

Michael Candy showed a series of videos that made clear how his projects function as interventions –  feeding off the natural environment and interfering with social spaces. His river-current measuring sound beacons, installed during recent floods in Brisbane harnessed, the (destructive) energy of water – generating real-time data that could be sonified as ‘music’.  We also saw a machine whose function is to crush lighting tubes when triggered remotely by mobile phone. While Michael’s relationship to ‘music’ is tangential, he is certainly a builder of ‘instruments’ – which amplify, destroy and instrumentalise the space around them.

Andreas Siagian explained his background as a civil engineer with complex modelling skills  – and also how his ultimate disinterest in conventional engineering almost got him expelled. Andreas moved into software production and coding, making his own tools that allowed him to pursue his interest in sonifying and visualising data from the natural would. His DIY hackerspace Life Patch is a place for like-minded Jogjakartans to develop and experiment with strange and experimental electronic projects.

Dylan Martorell’s  ‘instruments’ resemble tools for uses other than music –  including cooking utensils, hunting tools etc. His assemblages often begin with the collection of rubbish – a commodity found in every place he’s ever been to. Rubbish is everywhere.  Following an earlier trip to Jogja, in which a local kid had hijacked one of his instrument sculptures, playing with the microphones gleefully, Dylan had a revelation and started making works for others to play – what he calls ‘mobile performance spaces’. These have been built in lots of public spaces and are often attached to bicycle carts and other vehicles.


Pia Van Gelder took us through a number of recent projects that use crosswired analogue electronic signals to generate alien aural and visual patterns, which she controls and manipulates as part of her live performances. The amazing thing is how these works, that begin with modules, signal, pulses and other electrical phenomena have become more and more sculptural over time – to the degree that Pia’s most recent work the Tetra Synth (in collaboration with Stephen Jones) is built into a tetrahedron frame.



Blog entry by Joel Stern.