Fondazione Merz
Turin, Italy
3 July–1 October 2017

The Fondazione Merz is pleased to present Four Organs, a site-specific sound installation by Massimo Bartolini (Cecina, Livorno, 1962).

Bartolini has always been a mediator in the interaction between space and spectator, working on a perceptive and experiential level. His work, expressed in a wide variety of media and techniques, of artificial and natural materials, creates sensory situations by interweaving sounds, images and light effects.

For his installation at the Fondazione, Bartolini reinterprets the spaces through music and the presence of the musical machines that produce it.

The exhibition consists of six installations: four organs and a “maracas machine” placed in the main exhibition space, and a large-scale light work located outside. The exhibtion sees the four organs presented together for the first time as one new quartet, and the debut of the new fourth organ, Voyelles.

The exhibition title takes its name from Steve Reich’s 1970s composition, Four Organs. The cadence of Four Organs directs and unites the four different organ tracks into a quartet. The four organs execute a concert that, through echoes, overlays of harmony and the various positions of the organs themselves in the large, light-filled spaces of the Fondazione, alter the perception of the architecture.

Each organ has a different sonorous and formal characteristic, in a similar manner to the different instruments of a quartet: In a landscape is an organ in the form of a well which together with a mechanism produces a unique sound. The title of the work is that of a song by John Cage, and indeed, the organ plays a variant of this composition. The well is a symbol of introversion and suggests a depth which in this case hides and protects a music that is produced inside before being projected externally.

Voyelles (Vocals) refers to the poem of the same name by Arthur Rimbaud. The five pipes of the organ reproduce the vowels in the Vox Humana register (the term used for a reed stop on a pipe organ named after its suposed resemblance to the human voice), and each has the colour Rimbaud assigns to the vowels in his poem. In the history of science, the reproduction of Vox Humana has always been dense with implications and an area of interest with artists and scientists alike. Efforts to create a talking machine probably ended with the phonograph and with the Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo’s Intonarumori (a group of experimental musical instruments invented by the artist). The attempt to recreate the human voice through an instrument alludes both to the attempt in exploring the mystery of creation, and to try to establish a “super-human” reference standard for the most correct pronunciation possible.

The Otra Fiesta organ bears the title of a poem by Roberto Juarroz. Otra Fiesta comprises construction scaffolding made up of four square and concentric perimeters, the three outer ones being made up of joints and metal tubes, while in the fourth, the central one, the tubes have been transformed into organ pipes that automatically execute a track composed for the occasion by musician Edoardo Marraffa. In this case, two celebratory instruments “dedicated” to height—scaffolding and the organ—are intermingled in a single form.

Three quarter-tone pieces is also the title of a composition by Charles Ives for two pianos, one of which is tuned 1/4 of a tone higher than the other. This duet provokes harmonics that lie outside the tempered notation system.

In Bartolini’s installation, in which three pieces of furniture play together, this cluster produces harmonies that are uncommon and whose resonances intersect unpredictably and disturbingly in a drone that drives one to meditation or flight.

The work consists of a wardrobe, a trunk, and a kitchen cabinet made of packaging wood, transformed into an organ each with 3 rods tuned to 1/4 of a tone from each other and all playing simultaneously. The furniture is illuminated by lights whose colours refer to the visual representation of the notes in conformity with the relationship between colours and sounds studied by Louis Bertrand Castel in 1725 to make his ocular harpsichord.

The exhibition finishes with Maracas, a mechanism with four maracas and brushes that attempts to emulate the sound and rhythm of the above-mentioned piece by Steve Reich. The light installation Starless, is located in the Fondazione’s outdoor courtyard. This work comprises a dense network of lights, carpetting the floor of the courtyard. The lights are activated by the vibrating impulses of the musical score of King Crimson’s Starless, which, silent in space, transfers from a sonic beat to a visual light. In this instance the viewer is invited to “see” the music.

With the support of Regione Piemonte and Compagnia di San Paolo

In partnership with Lavazza