A Small Migration (2004) - Shawn Decker



A Small Migration was a piece first presented as part of the show “Sonic Differences” which was a part of the Biennial of Electronic Art Perth, in 2004. This work is a direct extension of my previous “physical” installations, with this project extending both the scale and complexity of my previous installations, as well as the nature and complexity of my work with hybrid physical/computational systems.

A Small Migration consists of many piano wires strung roughly 8 or 9 feet above the ground across an open gallery or public space. The wires are fixed at the ends with tuning blocks, so that the walls of the gallery then act as a “sounding board” for the piece. Normally these would be attached to the Gallery Walls, but as the Moores Building in Freemantle, where the exhibition was held, is an historic building, the walls were off-limits, so instead, a scaffold-like structure was built supporting the tuning blocks from above.

Wires are stung in parallel, and roughly 3 inches apart, and as long as 30 or 40 feet (depending on the space available). Small motors tap each wire with a striker attached to the shaft of the motor, causing sound. Each motor is sent a series of short electrical pulses by the micro-controller, causing it to strike the wire, which creates a disturbance that generates sound and also visibly shakes the wire. The rhythmic patterns used are those found in nature, and are constantly accelerating and decelerating and are derived from indeterminate processes such as 1/f noise algorithms. The installation contains a great many wires and motors (variable given the space) —the number in this installation being 32 wires and motors.