Sheng High is the creation of kinetic sculptor, sound artist, musician and composer Trimpin (1951).

Sheng High is a sound sculpture based on the ancient Chinese instrument, the sheng. A sheng is a reed instrument infused into bamboo pipes. By forcing/pushing air through the bamboo pipes, the reed is ‘activated’ and thus creates the proper notes and cords. [1] The sheng is considered to be the ancestor of both pipe and mouth organs. [2]

Trimpin used this instrument as the cornerstone of his sound sculpture.

A motion sensor activates a wheel, which causes a ‘tonearm’ consisting of light sensor controls to swipe across the surface of a disc marked with holographic foil. The sensors ‘read’ the foil, which then initiate the machine to pull on cables attached to faux-bamboo tubes partially submerged in plastic buckets full of water. Since every tube is mounted on an air-pressure activated pipe-organ reed, the compressed and decompressed air causes the reed to vibrate and thus create a note. [3]

There are 24 faux-bamboo tubes operated by the machine, each creating a different note. The result is a “gentle cacophony of ever-shifting notes.” [4]

Trimpin is said to have created “a visual forest animated by a Zen orchestra.” [5] and an “oasis of tranquillity.” [6]

Not only can the audience be amazed by the gentle whizzing sounds of the reeds, they can also analyse the foil infused wheel and connect imagery to the created sound, engaging the audience.

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Trimpin himself said that Sheng High “deals with space, spatial movements and sound movements. […] You basically walk through the instrument. That’s always been a part of my work. The viewer is always right inside where the sound comes from. It surrounds them.” [7]

Sheng High can be somewhat connected to Gary Hill’s Soundings, since both artworks are concerned with the “relationship between motion and sound, the visible and the audible.” [8] Gary Hill is much more experimental and destructive the Trimpin, but there is a small connection in their uses of sound and the interest both artists have in the working of sound.

It is also slightly similar to Paul Demarinis’ Edison Effect [9].  This similarly media-archaeological work uses lasers and digital signals to read the analog information encoded on disks and an Edison cylinder in order to create sound.

 

Sources:

[1] ‘Trimpin: Sheng High’. Vancouver 2010 website. Retrieved from http://www.vancouver2010.com/more-2010-information/cultural-festivals-and-events/event-listings/trimpin--sheng-high_131960nR.html

[2] Varty, Alexander. ‘CODE Live 1 and Trimpin’s Sheng High’. Straight.com: Vancouver’s Online Source. 18 February 2010. Retrieved from http://www.straight.com/article-290383/vancouver/code-live-1

[3] K0re. ‘Trimpin’s Sheng High (dorkbotSF Tour)’. 27 March 2009. Retrieved from
http://dorkbotsf.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/trimpins-sheng-high-dorkbotsf-tour/

[4] [5] [6] Varty, Alexander. ‘CODE Live 1 and Trimpin’s Sheng High’. Straight.com: Vancouver’s Online Source. 18 February 2010. Retrieved from http://www.straight.com/article-290383/vancouver/code-live-1

[7] ‘Art in Surround Sound’. Vancouver 2010 website. Retrieved from http://www.vancouver2010.com/more-2010-information/cultural-festivals-and-events/news/art-in-surround-sound_282504KY.html

[8] Hill, Gary. Sounding. (1979) As found in Shanken, Edward. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009: pp 70

[9] Demarinis, Paul. Edison Effect. (1989) As found in Shanken, Edward. Art and Electronic Media. London: Phaidon, 2009: pp 73