Martin Riches - 24 Piece Percussion Installation
  Year :   1994
  Location :   Germany
  Worktype :   Sound Installation
  Info :   Akademie der Künste

  Work Details  
  wood blocks were spread out in a line some 30 meters long, and the music often passed down the line with the speed of a fast train. Even Rossini’s music never moved quite that fast. Much could be said about this installation, about how it can be set up in different spaces, about the music itself, and about how listeners react, but what seems most important still today is simply the way it works. What most surprised me when I arrived in Berlin for the first presentation of this piece was not what I saw but what I did not see. There was nothing to read a punched tape, like with player pianos, nothing to wind up, like with music-box systems, and no computer in sight. All I could see was a power cord going into a small transparent box. Eight buttons were mounted on top of the box, enabling the listener to select which of the eight pieces they wanted to hear, and at the side there was a little on-off switch, and that was all. How did the wood blocks know when to knock? Getting programs to run at the speed you wanted was still a problem in the 80s, when Martin began programming music for his machines, so he learned the Assembler language, which kept the logic close to the machine level and optimized the speed. You can run such programs on a small old Atari, but even this was not necessary, because the program had been burned into a chip, which is to say it was hard wired. All the logic necessary was right there on the chip, so the computer could be eliminated. I suppose I should not have been surprised. By this time one could already find lots of information programmed onto plastic cards, and everything necessary to play “Happy Birthday” right there on your birthday card, so it was obvious that small specialized micro-circuits could be programmed without having a whole computer, but I had never seen an artist work in this way. Martin’s solution was most elegant: no computer to be broken or stolen, and the installation was completely self-contained, controlled only by its own customized brain. Accessed 16.05.2008 from