Visual Wednesday: A Wooden Mallet


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July’s First Thursday Review & a Wooden Mallet

First Thursday fell on a holiday this month, so I didn’t attend the event. I did, however take advantage of an early free admittance on Wednesday at the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC). Last month I wrote about the bowl at the MoCC, so this month I will share another highlight of an exhibit that I viewed more intentionally.

On this first Wednesday, I interacted with Soundforge by metalsmith Gabriel Craig, in partnership with composer Michael Remson. Soundforge was first realized in Houston, Texas and now Portland, Oregon at the MoCC through September 21, 2013.

The piece includes 16 wooden hand-carved mallets in a variety of shapes and sizes. The mallets are arranged vertically along an invisible horizontal line, with a white outline of each mallet’s uniques shape and a grey painted wall for a background. Each mallet is supported at the intersection of the head and handle by two nails. The rest of the piece includes hundreds of vertically strung hand-forged metal pieces that Craig refers to as keys. Three stands generously spread throughout the room organize the hundreds of hand-forged metal keys. The stands and keys are similar to vertically oriented xylophones. Further, there are a number of important interactive components that include multimedia, performance by musicians, and an invitation for all viewers to play the instrument as well.

To promote a complementary viewer interaction, Craig explains that all notes are in the same key of F minor pentatonic scale. This way the sounds work together, but are arranged in no particular order.

Personally, I truly enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in the work. I found myself curiously experimenting with the various mallets and the percussion sounds of the keys individually and together. Often I held two mallets, randomly striking and tapping keys. I noted the keys sound different depending on where you strike the metal, the middle, edge, top or bottom. A few other people were viewing and engaging with Soundforge while I was there, and I found our playing to be surprisingly cohesive.

Soundforge, according to Craig, highlights a specific moment in the metal forging process, when metal making is accompanied by percussion. His expressed intention to highlight the process, and act of object making is not only an interesting concept, but the intended meaning was well received by myself and other viewers I observed.


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