Trimpin: The Sound of Invention

Trimpin is a Seattle-based sound artist who creates incredibly unusual and delightful kinetic musical sculptures. The bizarre mechanical contraptions often driven by computers. For example, he's built a six-story-high xylophone in a spiral staircase, a fire organ, a MIDI-controlled toy piano ensemble, and automated wooden shoes knocking in a pool of water. Peter Esmonde, who was my editor at several places in the early 1990s, recently directed a documentary about Trimpin, titled Trimpin The Sound of Invention. I haven't seen the film yet, but it has had terrific reviews. That's no surprise to me, as Peter was always great at telling stories at the intersection of art, science, and technology. Here's the Trimpin movie site and there are more clips at Vimeo.


  1. I had the pleasure of meeting him when he put up his midi controlled toy piano installation here in Vancouver BC. He’s a most unpretentious guy, and easy to talk to. His installation was driving some people nuts, which was almost as amusing as the piece itself.

  2. Wow, thanks for the link! Experimental musical instrument design is utterly fascinating and fun to me. I’m familiar with Trimpin’s work, but I hadn’t heard about this film!

    A great introduction to the world of weird DIY instruments is the work of Bart Hopkin if you can track it down.

  3. Weird that Seattle is such fertile ground for experimental music. Such music/sound-art is the only thing that kept me sane while I was living there. Amazing noise/musical/beautiful stuff. Yet I’ve never lived anywhere so snobbish, cliquish, and socially frigid. Maybe the avant-music vibe feeds on that . . . If so, I guess it’s a good thing in the end . . . but not something I’d ever want to experience again.

    Anyhow, my own whining aside, thanks for this, and I’m looking forward to learning more about Trimpin.

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