Colombian-born composer and sound artist Alba Triana is based in Miami, Florida. We meet at her temporary studio space in the village of El Portal, 10 miles north of downtown Miami. That’s where the artist and her studio assistant are working on a set of unique sound installations for a special exhibition to celebrate the one hundred twenty-fifth year anniversary of the Colón Theater in Bogota, Colombia.
Though it might seem counter intuitive, we begin with an inaudible sound experiment! Music on a Bound String is a project that questions whether or not the act of listening is indispensible to the musical experience. Alba Triana has developed this project in a series of modular variations. She considers each module an individual sculpture. Each sculpture consists of two vertical bars spaced three feet apart. The artist ties a flexible string between the two bars. Wiring each string to a speaker, she then sets the string’s frequency with a tuning peg. When the speaker is turned on, it excites the string. The sound becomes visible as the vibration animates the string in an undulating wave. All that’s perceptible to the ear is a low hum.
While the artist intends for Music on a Bound String to be seen, not heard, her multi-faceted project Microcosmos offers an immersive vibrational experience. Based on the fundamental notion that all physical bodies vibrate, Alba Triana conceived Microcosmos as an animated sculpture; a piece in which energy is used to excite an object, in this case a cymbal, in order to poetically explore the natural and characteristic patterns in which an object vibrates, its fundamental physical properties.
The third project that Alba Triana introduces to me in her studio is inspired by the gamelan, a traditional ensemble music from Indonesia, made up predominantly of percussive instruments. The artist’s Electronic Gamelan is an interactive musical instrument with a real-time processing interface and nine speakers. The instrument is a low-lying luminous glass table that resembles an electronic keyboard. Six bands of white light span the rectangular surface. Visitors kneel to play this instrument, turning on the electronic gamelan without touching it—simply by hovering one hand over a small circle of white light at the far right edge of the table. One or more visitors can play the Electronic Gamelan at the same time. As their hands cast shadows over the bands of light, they change the color and sound of a musical composition that Alba Triana composed and recorded.
From inaudible sound and light experiments to interactive electronic music compositions and immersive vibrational environments, Alba Triana redefines traditional and contemporary music practices in her trans-disciplinary approach to the ever-evolving field of sound art.
This episode is the latest in our new series of conversations about art and technology, supported in part by Artseeker.com
Sound Editor: Alyssa Moxley | Photos and audio tracks courtesy Alba Triana