Perpetual Music Machine

I once spent time living across the street from a monastery. The ringing of the bells brought a passive, background sense of the passing of time. Even though I didn’t consciously pay attention to them, I had a greater sense of “where in the day” I was. This experience is the seed from which the concept for Perpetual Music Machine grows.

Medieval church clocks didn’t have faces; only the bells told time. The affordances of this differ from our modern, precise, individual, visual-first method of timekeeping. Sound is inherently shared, public, communal, where the visual may be private.

The project’s complete physical form (shown here as a study) is a series of twelve 2-3m high sound-sculptures. The size allows for a low pitch, which lets the sustained sound become closer to ‘room tone’ or ambience. Within each are 6-8 electronically-controlled strikers, and each has an electromagnet tuned to the natural frequency of the sculpture, continuing the ringing indefinitely, forming a continuous sonic fabric. These will be driven by a wirelessly networked microcontroller so that the group’s progressions are in sync with each other, and the time in their location.

Structurally, the number of hours in a day, and keys in the western musical tradition, are equal. This allows for ‘day’ and ‘night’ to map onto ‘major’ and ‘minor’ respectively, and for the major keys to progress according to ‘waking logic’, following the circle of fifths, whereas the minor keys progress according to ‘dream logic’, moving around key centres according to informal, associative relationships among the keys.

This study was exhibited in a group show at 44AD Artspace (UK)

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