borromean knot documentation – 2023

The Borromean Knot consists of a valve trombone with multiple interweaving tubes which route the signal into physical and acoustic loops, respective of the combined positions and interaction of valves. The original bell of the instrument is placed on top of a speaker, so that the sound transmits directly into and through the instrument. Through the use of combinatorial half-valving, tubing, microphones, and electronics, the instrument slowly plays itself, resulting in subtle and shifting fields of sound. Borromean Knot is self-playing and is intended as a sounding object for exhibition. Additionally, it has external ins/outs, facilitating its participation as a member of future ensembles or bands.

The instrument was constructed over the months through a series of research, experiments and prototypes:

For the mechanical movement and control of the valve system, multiple systems were explored (solenoids, motors, pneumatics, delivery hoses, bladders and couplings) in order to find the materials which served the project best. Eventually the combination of solenoids with small air bladders (used to clean camera lenses & equipment), tubing from hookahs/shishas, felt, copper plumbing coupling and small fists filled with polymorph became the model.

For the valve trombone constructions, both sound and physical experiments were initiated using various routings and lengths of tubing. The first experiments used plastic hoses, and then a metal prototype was constructed, utilizing plumbing from the hardware store. Finally the Borromean object’s form and dimensions became clear, and it was constructed using brass from old instruments and copper fittings.

prototype with hoses
prototype with hoses
metal prototype
up close metal

building the final
instrument mounted
cats supervised the process
speaker cone to bell
speaker cone mounted
dimensions for plinth
the mechanical fist

Concept, sound, instrument fabrication: Liz Allbee

Electronics, programming: Sukandar Kartadinata

Plinth fabrication: Derek Shirley