Suspended Violin



(ambisonics are processed as binaural audio in the video – listen with headphones for the spatial effect)

This piece is a heavily technologically-mediated audiovisual reconstruction of the violin.

It began as a head-to-toe sonic exploration. I recorded myself knocking and scraping the body of the instrument, creaking tuning pegs, sliding my fingernails down strings, rubbing rosin against bow-hair, plucking, scratching, and grasping. I played harmonics, slippery glissandi, and scratchy notes sul tasto to sul ponte. I bowed the tailpiece and the chinrest, tapped wood against string col legno, and even recorded my breath through the instrument to capture its resonances.

I suspended the violin from the ceiling with a computer charger and earphones (evoking an umbilical cord or a noose) to take photos from all angles. Over 300 images were used to generate a 300-million point 3D model, capturing immense detail as well as abstract artifacts from quirks in lighting and background. I animated a spiraling trajectory of the model from top to bottom, exploring both the form of the violin and the computer-generated cloud-like artifacts. Three versions of the model, each different colorations and densities, alternate corresponding to timbre-qualities throughout the piece.

Processing the collection of recordings via granular synthesis, I composed gestural figures roughly evocative of the various shapes of the instrument. For example, the piece begins with the scroll and tuning pegs, corresponding to whirring, circular sounds like light machinery. It moves down the neck, across the fingerboard and strings, scratched, plucked, and eventually bowed, leaping into the resonances within the body of the instrument, and resurfaces at the traditional sonic locus between the fingerboard and the bridge where the first ‘traditional’ sounds are heard. Finally, the piece moves towards the bridge with higher harmonics, scaffolded and constructed in overtone series recalling the intricate architecture of that piece of the instrument, and ending with textural rubbing sounds of the bow against the bridge, tailpiece, and chin rest.  

The piece is in fifth-order ambisonics. Spatialization allows for gestural sonic ‘sculpting’, such that spinning or hook-like trajectories can correspond to objects like tuning pegs or C-bouts. The format also allows the listener to immerse themselves within the abstracted instrument. 

Having been classically trained in the violin from five to eighteen, I am re-examining my relationship to the instrument as a composer and as a musician, trying to bring together the affordances and flexibility of a computer-mediated practice with the warmth and ease of expression I associate with acoustic practice. I broke apart the instrument to rebuild it radically differently while keeping the component parts intact. It is an ode to the instrument, a microscopically focused appreciation of physical form and sound production.