Peter Esmonde’s account of artist known simply as Trimpin is warm, insightful and amusing. Esmonde, who filmed over a two year period, draws us into the colourfully polyphonic world of Trimpin, a world of child-like fascination for all of nature’s sounds.
The German born artist is impossible to pigeon-hole: He is a sonic experimenter, a technician, a scientist, an inventor and a composer who builds installations such as a mountain of self tuning, automatic electric guitars and a perpetual motion glass ball, which he calls his ‘silent instrument.’ This particular instrument is, perhaps, symbolic of the unending motion of his endeavours.
Tracing his lifetime projects, the film moves between his childhood and adult hood, focusing on the expereinces and influences that shaped his obsession. He was born in the Black Forest region of Germany, a place synonymous with music and machinery (cuckoo clocks were originally built there). As a child he was fascinated with Harper’s Electricity Book for Boys, which introduced him to the blueprints of engineering, but it was a profound musical experience in the forest with his father that opened his ears to the myriad sounds of waking life.
Astoundingly, he is deeply cynical of recorded music and the commercial art world at large. Not a note of his music is recorded. He shuns recording equipment and refuses to put a price on his art, which is exhibited only in select galleries.
Yet his singular, eccentric vision conjures moments of pure comedic joy, especially in his attempt to convert earthquake data into music and a rather awkward collaboration with the Kronos Quartet that involves toy instruments and wacky sensor technology.
Overall, this docu-film is more than a portrait of a crazed musical genius. It is a tribute to passion, to creativity and to life as exploration and art.