Decades ago, music writers like Theodor Adorno and Roger Sessions bemoaned the omnipresence of music on LP and radio. They worried that musical performance, formerly an ephemeral act, would become everyday aural wallpaper, a soundtrack to accompany our lives. Given the fact that crap-pop music sells better than everything else, it's not too hard to argue that the ubiquity of recordings makes it more likely that people won't explore the unusual or bother to listen--not just hear, but listen with no interruptions or distraction--at all.
Whether or not this is true, Seattle sound artist Trimpin has cleverly beat this game by refusing to record his works and creating difficult-to-duplicate installations that invite the eye's and ear's attention to the moment. Klavier Nonette is a coin-operated vending machine of 41 compositions by 41 composers played by nine mechanically driven toy pianos in the round. Each composer was able to specify when each piano would play, creating a clangorous toy-piano ensemble that often sounds like an Indonesian gamelan miniaturized by a Martian shrinking ray. The composers--including John Cage, Amy Denio, Kevin Goldsmith, George Lewis, Liberace, Conlon Nancarrow, and Trimpin himself--have created pieces that are by turns bluesy, bumptious, solemn, moving, and just plain fun. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
Klavier Nonette exhibits through April 25, Monday-Friday, 9 am to 6 pm (Jack Straw Productions, 4261 Roosevelt Way NE, 634-0919), free (but bring quarters to play the pieces).