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The New Sound of Music Hybrid Instruments by Ken Butler


  • Archive Exhibitions, Archived Education, Exhibition

  • March 30 – September 4, 2006
  • Kidspace

The New Sound of Music featured hybrid musical instruments created by Ken Butler of Brooklyn, New York. Internationally recognized as an innovator of experimental sculptural instruments, Ken brings together a diversity of everyday materials including tools, sports equipment, and household objects. He has used boots for “violin” bodies, and turned floor mops and children’s sleds into “cellos.” He has meshed keyboards with recycled wire shelves and spotlights to create an interactive musical light show. Ken’s work explores the interaction between, and transformation of, common objects, altered images, sounds, and silence. He links objects that suggest instruments and that relate to each other visually, often with the sounds they end up producing as by-products. Ken has said his work has “an ergonomic relationship” to the body, meaning that though they are made out of many protruding objects, he takes into consideration how the instruments relate to a musician’s body.

Many of Ken’s instruments are playable and have been used in performances; others are enjoyed for their visual impact, whose sounds are imagined by viewers. The exhibit consisted of playable and non-playable musical instruments of varying size and materials, many of which illustrated Ken’s admiration for Cubism. Also featured in the exhibit was a mural created by local students in grades 6 to 10 who participated in ArtSHOP, the Kidspace after-school art program. With artist mentor and collage artist Karen Arp-Sandel, students designed a textured, Cubist-style collage mural with references to music and musical instruments. The exhibit includes a viewing area where the artist can be seen performing on video, as well as a listening station featuring his music. An art-making area offered visitors the opportunity to create their own musical instruments.

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