The Mechanical Kisser

  • sound installation, 2023

In 1737, J. Vaucanson built The Flute Player, a life-size automaton that played the actual instrument. In accordance with the requirements of Baroque playing technique, it moved its fingers, tongue and extended its chin, correcting the pitch. Ducts hidden in the “body” were used to control the amount of air blown through them.

The automaton brought Vaucanson fame, money and a place in the French Academy of Sciences, for which he prepared a description of “The Flute Player”. Unfortunately, the mechanical figure itself was lost.

In 2022, I worked on building my own instrument, based on a diagnosis of my “flute performance needs.” This is how “The Perfect Kisser” was created.

Sound-wise, the instrument has been inspired by the empty wharves and harbours where the blowing wind encounters objects, moving them or being split by them.

The instrument used in the installation explores the airy quality of flute sound, kept in the subtle, indeterminate sphere of shadows. The presence of the playing person introduces precise articulation of the shapes of sound. On a microlevel, the process is intimate and tender – like a kiss.

“The Mechanical Kisser” is a decomposed instrumental automaton. Just like in the case of the 18th-century android, we can hear how the elimination of natural breathing highlights other aspects of sound, making the mechanism of its production part of the work’s sonority. Composition-wise, the installation is based on the juxtaposition of automatically generated layers of sound with human-made ones.

Read more about the story of “The Flute Player”:

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