Granular synthesis, as described by Iannis Xenakis, imagined sound as constructed from elementary elements. In the work of Zimoun, elementary sonic grains are physical. An undulating wall of cardboard rubs surfaces against one another to form a chorus of sound. Cotton balls roll against boxes in throaty clouds of sound. Wires wriggle like some sort of insect antennae. Below, the newest video of his work, in which cardboard petals form an animated wall of rustling noise.

The results, powered by simple DC motors in kinetic musical action, recall some kind of natural, organic colony. Assembled in structures sculptural and architectural, this is real-world synthesis, constructed mechanically in motion.

The work is elegant, graceful, and witty, not cold and aggressive as are so many sound works. The sounds can be delicate – even assemblages of electric fans.

Zimoun is a Swiss artist whose work has been presented around the US and Europe. He also records music, some of it in surround.

I hope to see these works in person; if they’re this moving in Internet videos, I can barely imagine seeing them up close. I’ll let the videos speak for themselves.

  • I rarely get excited about this sort of thing, but I have to say that this is really, really damn cool. So much of it evokes the pitter-patter of rain, or the rustling and clanging of things in the wind. It's instantly and strikingly immersive on video, probably moreso IRL… it really invites you to imagine another world.

    It makes me want to record a zillion variations of the same thing to see what kind of soundscapes I can get.

  • oh very nice! Need to have that set up in my bedroom…

  • I had the pleasure to see the piece installed at Lydgalleriet, and it is definitely a type of work that draws you in, I found it hard to leave.

  • dumafuji

    wow. immersive and magnificent. like so much great art: so simple, i could have done that! i wish i had done that!

  • Brian Tuley

    Brings a fresh approach to modern art.  I don't follow modern art installations very closely but I haven't come across this sound and visual approach to wall art before.  Three thumbs up!

  • Radiophobic

    I think this stuff is kind pretty neat, but every time I see it, it makes me think he just ripped off Arthur Ganson in large scale format. 

  • Peter Kirn

    @Radiophobic: I'm a huge, huge fan of Arthur Ganson's work. I'm sure this is influenced in some way – Ganson has had a big impact on kinetic sculpture generally. But I don't see it as derivative. Ganson focuses on the theatrical, the characterization of the scene; this is really sonic. And the aesthetic sense and mechanics are different. I think this is more about sound and total effect.

  • Henry Lowengard

    You'll probably also like Trimpin, especially his water drop sequencer! This is beautiful, annnd, with the right deconvolution analysis, you could probably make the thing talk. 

  • @Peter I agree that Zimoun pursues a much broader perhaps less anecdotal way than Ganson. It's seems more free, and lets the materials speak for themselves, that's why the granular reference in your post makes so much sense.

    Brilliant work, and so well executed, would love to experience this 'IRL' (I hate that term).

  • Stij

    @Henry: I remember seeing a "talking piano" on here a while ago (or maybe it was Synthtopia?) that basically did what you're talking about. I'd love to see the same thing done with one of these sculptures.

    Like everyone else said, I'd bet these would be a lot cooler in person. But I like the effect of the third video… it slowly builds up to the full sound. When I first watched it, I though "Ping-pong balls on motors? That's stupi-HOLY CRAP IT SOUNDS EXACTLY LIKE RAIN". 😀 I don't think you'd get that kind of reveal if you saw it in person.

  • Damon

    Overwhelming… From staggered to envious to he has a lot of time, patience, and cashola. 
    Meanwhile, RadioShack is busy restocking them DC motors.

  • Jim Aikin

    Sorry. It's interesting for about five seconds, but it's certainly not art. Basically, it's incredibly stupid, and wasteful ecologically to boot. Do you suppose this guy could ever learn to play "House of the Rising Sun" on acoustic guitar? Because if so, he would be better off doing exactly that. I'd rather listen to Little Richard — and I detest Little Richard.

  • Bellectronic

    Very nice.

  • Great stuff, and clearly very different from Ganson.

  • poopoo

    Hypnotic stuff. Some of the sculptures look a little like they sound. The air compressor hose one looks and sounds like a bunch of insects.

    I would have expected a bit more wit and insight from a published novellist such as Jim Aikin.

  • Jamsire Ernoir

    Absolute genius and incredible!

  • @Stij: I remember that talking piano – to get a whole room full of stuff to talk would be very interesting to me. 
    Here's something I did about 20 years ago like the talking piano:
    "here's a demo I made for EAR magazine: first, the original sound, then the sound of RGS synthesizing the sonogram of that sound, playing that sonogram as audio, playing that sonogram as MIDI on a DX7. "

  • Think it is very intriguing. Thats all art needs to be 😉

  • Jeff Brown

    Your phrase "elementary elements" made me laugh.

  • digid

    Fantastic stuff, would've loved to this live. Hmm, and it's in Bergen, Norway right now, and since I live in Norway I should probably do the eight hour drive and see it. Hmm…

    Would also have expected Jim Aikin to be less of an ignoramus when it comes to modern art. "This isn't art"? Oh really? Who gave you the power to define art? Geez.

  • TC

    REAL ART 🙂

  • newmiracle

    Why do people always assume bad art somehow equals not art? Calling something stupid doesn't make it not art. There are plenty of paintings that I find stupid, but I wouldn't say they weren't art. I would say they were bad art.
    I happen to greatly enjoy the pieces, but I could see how someone might not. Of course, that's personal taste. But if I ate a sandwich I didn't like, and someone asked me what I thought of it, I wouldn't say, "That? No, it's not a sandwich."

  • Stij

    You obviously don't UNDERSTAND sandwiches, you uncultured boor : p

    @Henry: Cool!

  • Robin

    I'm imagining a very frustrated electronics salesman trying to to come up to an answer to the question "Yes, but are your dc motors archival quality?"

  • akrylik

    i agree that there is some aspect of this work which is impressive. however, i am a bit weary of people overusing the property of emergence that results from the standard ad nauseam application of tessellation. they are pretty insensitive and brute force methods that eventually leave an aftertaste of factory waste which prevents me at least from really spending much time thinking about it. lets hope this particular work doesn't get imitated too often.

  • Speaking piano by Peter Ablinger:

  • J

    Very very cool and innovative. Imagine others in my area have seen this as well. Thanks for sharing with us

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  • hahaha. this is nice. great ideas. 😀
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