Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Allella

John Ito, our newest exhibit designer/fabricator, has just finished a new piece that he's been working on down in Mindport's basement shop for the last several months. Here's what he has to say about it:

"To me the Allella is something of a sound travel device... if an instrument can be called that. I was going for kind of a Queen Anne furniture made for a DJ from Atlantis look.

My intent was to create something experimental that utilized a planetary gear system to drive an instrument that anyone could play, one in which all of the operative components could be seen in action. Such gearing allows for a variety of speed and oscillating directional movement. I figured something with strings could reflect the movements of the device.

I built two sound boxes, something in the fashion of a rectangular harp or guitar, with rounded bridges mounted on each side for consistent 360 degree rotation of all 24 strings.

I didn't know how the instrument would sound until it was entirely finished, as there was nothing in existence to compare it to. The end result, a surprise awaited during the three months it took me to build it, is more complex than I had imagined. The sound can be controlled in many ways, but there's a distinct aspect of chaos as well. 

Simple movements can produce unexpected melodies and rhythms, as the placement of the string plucking is intentionally non-incremental in location. As speed builds, the cacophony of sound develops its own shifting attributes. It can be melodic and atonal at the same time, a paradox.

The music that it makes is certainly strange, and does not conform to any style. If expectations are let go of, interesting and pleasant surprises abound.

The only way to play it, is to play it. "

There's a video of John playing the instrument here.

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