Ever hear a car alarm blaring outside and, in spite of yourself, find that you're nodding along to the repetitive rhythm? Maybe stepping along the footpath in time? Given the right frame of mind, even the most seemingly annoying or atonal noises can be transformed into something strangely mesmerising. Even dot matrix printers and sewing machines.
When experimental maestros take utilitarian sounds out of their traditional contexts and coordinate them just so, musical magic happens — no stinkin' instruments required. Here, we've rounded up four of our favourite examples of industrial machines becoming independent orchestras, thanks to aurally minded folks who managed to suss out their lyrical appeal and find a certain kind of harmony.
In a way, listening to these is the audio equivalent of watching those taffy machines turn and turn and turn (with a little Pink Floyd and Steamboat Willie tossed in) — almost hypnotic, weirdly satisfying.
Sewing Machine Orchestra by Martin Messier
Martin Messier transformed a collection of hard-working industrial artifacts into a synchronised symphony of clicks, clacks, and whirs in this aural performance featuring fully-functional vintage Singers. The composer controlled the motions and coordinated each machine's individual contribution, which combine to create something almost sinister in its relentlessness.
D.O.R.T.H.E. by Lasse Munk and Søren Andreasen
Using component parts sourced from a trip to the junkyard, Lasse Munk and Søren Andreasen created the Danish Orchestra of Radios Talking and Hacked Engines — you can call her D.O.R.T.H.E. — a techy mash-up of tossed-out electronics that turn words into tunes.
The Symphony #1 for Dot Matrix Printers by [The User]
By 1998, dot matrix printers were already on the wane, but a pair of Canadian creatives brought a dozen of the slow and steady gadgets back to life for a weird — and way beautiful — staccato symphonic performance.
Sounds of Making in East London by Dominic Wilcox
Last year, designer Dominic Wilcox took to myriad workshops, kitchens, foundries, and creative zones in his bustling east London neighbourhood to capture their ubiquitous background rhythms. From garlic chopping to church bell tuning, each was recorded, preserved on vinyl cut & mastered in Hackney, and the result is a strangely soothing mish-mash of craftspeople hard at work. Have a listen here (and buy a copy here).
London Fields Brewery
Whitechapel Bell Foundry
Terry De Havilland - Shoemaker