Sound installations for metal percussion

Naked Eye, Hidden Ear Florence

For more than 5000 years, metal percussion instruments have been central to the musical expression of cultures around the world. Their complex and mysterious sound has inspired the breadth of human experience, from invoking spiritual contemplation to inciting military aggression. Building on this rich tradition — and the work of such 20th Century pioneers as Karlheinz Karlheinz Stockhausen and David Tudor composer Matthew Goodheart combines the power and complexity of metal percussion with recent developments in computer and audio technology to offer a series of startling audio installations of haunting beauty and visceral audience interaction.

Naked Eye, Hidden Ear Berlin

Each unique, these living audio experiences can range from a single interactive gong to large multi-instrument immersive sound environments. In these installations, Goodheart, who is known for his sensitivities to the intricacies of sound in his work as a jazz pianist and microtonal composer, applies his artistry to the creation of sound and music that directly connects listener to instrument. It is an experience that speaks to a primal relationship these instruments seem alive, sounding of their own accord. It is as much a physical experience as a sonic one.

…silence of things secret… Spark Festival Minneapolis, 2010

While the sound is electronic in origin, what is heard is entirely acoustic, wrought from the unique properties of these hand-forged instruments. Each installation is a composition, created from a complex method of analysis, computer manipulation, and arrangement. Goodheart first maps out each gong or cymbal’s unique harmonic spectrum and resonant properties. He then uses a computer to isolate and manipulate individual sonic elements, combining them with recordings of the instruments, to create new and unusual sounds.

field of gongs Scenes from a Lingering Garden Oakland, 2010

These new sounds become the building blocks of composition, which when fed back to the instrument through a small transducer (speaker) attached to its surface, result in a surprisingly visceral acoustic experience.  Ultimately, these complex and subtle compositions sound the original instruments in various physical configurations, individually designed for a specific space, to create multi-dimensional works of art that are experienced spatially and physically as well as aurally.

watergong Scenes from a Lingering Garden Oakland, 2010

Since 2009, these installations have been featured at the Spark Festival in Minneapolis, MN; the Axel Obiger Gallery in Berlin; Skolska28 gallery in Prague; the Garden of Memory Walk-Through Concert and Scenes from a Lingering Garden in Oakland, CA; the SubZERO Festival in San Jose, CA; Mills College and the University of California, Berkeley.

This project has been developed in collaboration with the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at the University of California at Berkeley.
The artist’s CNMAT blog documents the technical details.

Contributors to this project include John McCallum, Andy Schmeder, Edmund Campion, David Wessel, Jeff Lublow, Garth Powell, and Beau Faw.

In addition installation work, the artist has developed a variety of real-time controllers with which he can perform with these instruments in live concerts. Work is also underway investigating the use of transducers with string instruments.

Background photo by Kosmas Giannoutakis