The complex and fascinating Victorian mechanism of Zimoun’s “Guitars Studies I-III” on #neuguitars #blog #Zimoun

The complex and fascinating Victorian mechanism of Zimoun’s “Guitars Studies I-III” on #neuguitars #blog #Zimoun


Guitar Studies I-III | Zimoun | Room40 (

I’m interested in perceptible processes. I want to be able to hear the process happening throughout the sounding music”*

Even if I am not among those who think that there is something to be gained from the detailed analysis of possible, hypothetical inspirations, I cannot fail to notice how the cult of sound art is littered with sub-cults that claim every possible influence. More than a movement or an artistic genre, the term Sound art or sound art means that variety of expressions and artistic forms that have sound and listening at the center of their interest. It is a complex artistic phenomenon, branched, conceptual and without defined borders, whose extraordinary vitality lies in the continuous trespassing between the worlds of visual art and musical practice.

To facilitate closely detailed listening a musical process should happen extremely gradually.”*

The works of the Swiss artist Zimoun, well known for his installation works, generally site-specific and with totally immersive qualities. His quality lies in using the mechanical principles of rotation and oscillation to set materials in motion and thus produce sounds. Normally it mainly uses simple materials of daily life and industrial use, such as cardboard, direct current motors, cables, welding wire, wooden spars or fans, managing to create small devices, such as mono usable logic units, which a once activated, despite their fundamental simplicity, they generate an interesting timbral and visual complexity, particularly when a large number of such mechanical devices, even hundreds of them, are united and orchestrated in installations and sculptures.

Deleuzian units. Mechanical rhizomes. No sci-fi garb. No Martian goblins or metal crash test dummies. No alien bodies poking out of a neon light dream. No interpreters. Zimoun’s guitars seem to embrace both the principles of order and chaos at the same time.

With the Guitar Studies series, Zimoun dealt exclusively with noises and sounds produced by guitars. Prepared guitars, of course. Arranged according to a geometric pattern or ordered and installed according to a system, but they behave in a chaotic way and act – within a carefully prepared framework of possibilities – in an uncontrolled way as soon as they are mechanically activated. Prepared guitars, activated by small DC motors. Connected to microphones, connected to different amplifiers, some faulty, some perfect. A clinical study. A work of mechanical craftsmanship, tolerating minimal inaccuracies that emphasize, allow or even cause the error, the malfunction, the anomalous behavior of the materials.

There are no loops. The reproduced sounds were recorded in different environments, such as inside a cardboard tube or in different rooms of various sizes, and then recorded again, adding natural resonance and spatiality to the sounds. Various forms of distortion have been added by sending the guitar signal to a bare speaker membrane on a table, putting sand on the membrane itself. The friction between the membrane and the sand therefore created various forms of distortion. We said no loops, Zimoun recorded every level of each piece, exploring it thoroughly. in the whole period of about an hour. Having created a rich library of sounds, Zimoun created almost infinite overlaps, resulting in a landscape in slow continuous change, adding a strong sculptural component.

While performing and listening to gradual musical processes, one can participate in a particular liberating and impersonal kind of ritual. Focusing in on the musical process makes possible that shift of attention away from he and she and you and me outward toward it”*

I anticipate one of the possible and easy criticisms of these Guitar Studies. An eternal cliché of experimental music: anyone can do it, right? Perhaps, but only once the mechanism is revealed, the elaborate conceptual work invisible to listening. But I still don’t think it would be possible, not even for a competent interpreter, to recreate this structure that moves with tectonic slowness, denouncing deep musical geological levels, where rather ordinary events repeated over millions of years have shaped a splendid planet of mountains and canyons, rivers and sound plains.

Musical processes can give one a direct contact with the impersonal and also a kind of complete control, and one doesn’t always think of the impersonal and complete control as going together. By “a kind” of complete control, I mean that by running this material through this process I completely control all that results, but also that I accept all that results without changes.” *

Of course, possible influences remain: Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Fennesz, GAS and others, perhaps. Here everything is possible, because the musical instrument has become a tool, because there is no interpreter, because human intervention here is conceptual. Here you have to listen and let yourself be carried away. It is entirely possible that the absence of an “institutional” sound of the guitar instrument, or more precisely the sound of the guitar, leads to fantasize about the fact that sounds have a life of their own and how they can be added and replaced by one. more to create a new musical world. It all depends on its creator, its semantic ability and us listeners, our ability to get involved, because when you look at the sound, you may wonder if it is sound or is it art, always returning exactly to the starting point. Play the game.

*Steve Reich, Writings on Music, 1965-2000