Soundforge: In Process (Update #2)

Posted July 14, 2011 in Blog

This fall, HCCC will premier Soundforge, a work two years in the making. In the fall of 2009, while he was an artist-in-residence at HCCC, metalsmith Gabriel Craig began collaborating with Houston-based music composer Michael Remson. Their project, Soundforge, will be an interactive, multimedia installation that explores forging metal as both a means of fabrication and an act of percussion. Gabriel Craig has graciously agreed to give us regular updates from his studio on the fabrication of the project. Click here to read update # 1.

In creating the physical work for Soundforge, the first problem to solve was how to assemble a portable armature that could support the musical keys. The original concept renderings I did called for gate-like structures with curvilinear ornaments, influenced by 18th- and 19th-Century European ironwork. In early 2011, as I began to listen to Michael Remson’s early drafts of the musical score, it became clear that I would need to redesign the ornamentation to fit with the sharp, pulsing, rhythmic soundscape he was creating.

The design featured in this early concept rendering has been overhauled to mirror the aesthetics of the soundscape more closely.

For both logistical and aesthetic reasons, one of the first changes I made was to make the armatures modular and able to be disassembled to allow for easy transport and installation. I solved this problem by giving the cross braces of the three armatures threaded tenon ends, by drilling the newels and forging, drilling, and tapping custom pyramidal nuts.

Threaded tenons allow the armatures to come apart for easier transport.

Forging those tenons by hand seemed like a good idea at the time, but it took almost two weeks, even with the help of my studio assistant, John Eagan. It took another workweek to thread the uneven hand-forged tenons, not to mention the fact that I went through five cutting dies! The nuts were a bit easier, though hand forging one-inch steel stock is no picnic either—I am not big, nor particularly strong, just tenacious. The result is very functional, though, and, upon seeing the first armature assembled, I am beginning to get excited as the project comes together.

These tapered ends were cut off…

…chamfered, drilled, tapped, and countersunk in order to transform them into fastening nuts for the armature.

A close-up image of the armature’s mechanics.

The armature standing for the first time! It still needs feet and ornaments, but that is for another post.