Country:   England
URL:   http://
9 nodes
A maker of walking and drawing machines, speech synthesizers, and novel musical instruments, he is today a firm fixture on the Berlin cultural scene, titillating art lovers with his strange artistic gadgets. Riches first started making walking machines - steel, brass and electro-mechanical contraptions, with frames fitted with two, three, four and six legs - in the 1970s. Their “gait,” he says, was like that of insects or spiders. “I was determined to discover as many different ways of mechanical walking as possible.” One of his early “music machines” drew chuckles with a jovial rendering of the popular song Berliner Luft. Later, a flute-playing machine was built with a fully automatic alto flute. Pieces played were automatically drawn with a felt tip pen on long transparent music rolls, then optically scanned by the photo cells of a reading device. The noted American minimalist composer Tom Johnson, who lives in Paris, has been one of Riches’ closest collaborators for more than 20 years. His composition Eight Pieces was specially composed for Riches’ “24 Piece Percussion Installation”, and was first presented at Berlin’s Academy of Arts in 1994. Someone who frequently teams up with Riches is the London-based composer and violinist Alexsander Kolkowski who inspired him recently to experiment with a Serinette - a high pitched instrument, popular in Belgium and Spain in the 18th century for encouraging canaries to sing. Drawing on that principle, Riches designed a barrel organ-like device with a handle, hopeful it would also animate canaries to warble. “Mine was an ‘exploded’ version of a Serinette,” he says tongue-in-cheek, when noting that in the old days such instruments were monophonic. “I made the bellows capacious enough to permit polyphonic music.” Riches says canaries mostly hop about their cages, uttering screeching noises. “The thing was to get them to sing,” he says. This meant attuning his ‘Serinette’ to the pitch of the birds. Armed with his own version of a Serinette, and backed by Kolkowski and a string quartet, Riches gave a “canary” concert at the Maerz Music Festival in Berlin last year. “A champion German canary breeder and trainer came along with 20 of his canaries for the performance,” he says. Asked if the canaries really did sing, he emphatically replies “They most certainly did! A lot of people came to listen. We ended up giving three performances, such was the interest.” Accessed 16.05.2008 from
8 Selected Statements
      Worktype Info Year Country Admin
Music Machines - Edit
Flute Playing Machine Sound sculpture 1983 Germany Edit
The Talking Machine 2002 1989 Germany Edit
24 Piece Percussion Installation Sound Installation Akademie der Künste 1994 Germany Edit
Motor Mouth Sound Sculpture 1995 Germany Edit
Ein Ton / A Note Instrument / Sound Sculpture 1996 Germany Edit
Do it Yourself Sound Installation Parochialkirche 1999 Germany Edit
Interactive Field Stadtgalerie Saarbrucken 2002 Germany Edit