Suspended Violin

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

The core of the piece is a head-to-toe sonic exploration. I recorded knocking and scraping on wood, creaking tuning pegs, fingernails sliding down strings, rosin rubbing against bow-hair, plucking, scratching, notes played sul tasto to sul ponte, harmonics, glissandi, the tailpiece and chin rest played with the bow, col legno, and even my breath through the F-holes to capture some of the resonances from the instrument body.

I then suspended the instrument from the ceiling with a computer charger and earphones (almost like an umbilical cord or a noose) and took over 300 photos from all angles. The photos were used to generate a 300-million-point 3D model, capturing immense detail while generating abstract artifacts from quirks in lighting and background. I animated a spiraling trajectory of the point cloud from top to bottom to explore both the form of the violin and the amorphous swarm-like particles of the artifacts, alternating between three colorations and densities each roughly corresponding to timbre-qualities in the final piece.

From the large body of recorded sound, I reduced the audio into textural fragments via granular synthesis and recorded reconstructed 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 (with its metaphorical association to the human body part and thus breath), 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 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 spatialized in fifth-order ambisonics to better convey the gestural sonic ‘sculpting’, such that spinning or hook-like trajectories can correspond to things like tuning pegs or C-bouts. The spatial audio also allows the listener to immerse themselves within the abstracted instrument and serves as a testament to the compositional freedoms of technologically-mediated music making.

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 so I could rebuild it in a way that was radically different sounding and looking, and yet kept the component parts intact. It is also an ode to the instrument as is, a microscopically focused appreciation of physical form and musical technique.

(ambisonics are processed as binaural audio in the video)

Noah Berrie 2021 ©