Genius Captured at Last


Since the incredible sound artist known as Trimpin disdains loudspeakers and makes his music via huge sculptural assemblages that place acoustic sounds throughout three-dimensional space, his music is virtually impossible to do justice to on recordings, and there are no CDs of Trimpin’s music you can buy. As a result, one of the awesome musical geniuses of the early 21st century remains rather ridiculously unknown and little experienced. However, filmmaker Peter Esmonde has now completed his documentary Trimpin: The Sound of Invention, which gives as lifelike a ride through Trimpin’s wonderful Dr. Seuss world of sound sculptures as I imagine you could ever get without actually being there. You get to see his percussion assemblages rippling noises through space, watch Trimpin’s collaboration process with the Kronos Quartet, see Trimpin achieve an (almost) perfectly spherical glass ball to serve as a perpetual-motion sound generator, and – if you’re sufficiently equipped, which I’m not – all the music is recorded in 5.1 surround-sound, so you’ll get at least some of the effect of the noises flying back and forth around your head. It’s a delightful 79-minute film that achieves a satisfying (though still extremely fragmentary) cross-section of Trimpin’s promethean work; keep an eye out for it, though I don’t quite know how it’s going to be distributed. And Charles Amirkhanian and I are two of the people interviewed about Trimpin, which is kind of a kick. As a fan of Ken Burns’s Civil War, I love getting to be the Shelby Foote of American music: