Australian artists build musical instrument ‘played’ by Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano

A project in Indonesia has built a musical instrument that can be “played” by the restless volcano of Mount Merapi in Java.

The joint Australian-Indonesian collaboration, part of the Instrument Builders project, is behind the Mountain Operated Synthesizer (MOS).

Joel Stern, co-curator of the Instrument Builders project, explains that it was built by two Australian artists, Michael Candy and Pia Van Gelder, in collaboration with an artist from Yogyakarta, Andreas Siagian.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume.

“You might wonder how a mountain can ‘play’ an instrument – well, the instrument reacts to various environmental factors – wind, heat and humidity being the three main ones”, he said. he declares.

“It contains integrated electronic circuits, which use data from these environmental factors to transform sounds.

“For example, when a strong wind blows on top of a mountain, the sound can rise in pitch, and when the wind dies down, the pitch drops.”

Mount Merapi has been active for thousands of years, with eruptions still capable of terrifying the local communities surrounding it.

Mr Stern says that given its location on Base Camp Two, near the summit of Mount Merapi, they don’t know how long the MOS will be making music.

“The facility is solar powered, so theoretically, unless something breaks unexpectedly, it should go on,” he said.

A prototype of the Mountain Operated Synthesizer exhibited at the Indonesian Contemporary Art Network in Yogyakarta(Provided: Joel Stern)

“Of course, it’s not made to survive an eruption, and the area it’s set up in is covered in volcanic ash and is an unstable area.

“Only a few weeks ago there was a small eruption from the Merapi and at this stage we don’t know what the instrument looked like and whether it in fact survived the eruption.”

Mr Stern says Indonesian artist Andreas Siagian acted as a consultant to local communities in the development of the instrument on the volcano.

“I think the artists themselves were very respectful of the mythology around the mountain and the importance it has in Javanese culture, and wanted the installation to be seen as an offering to the mountain, rather than ‘a sort of colonization of it,’ he said. .

“So they were very careful to install the work that responds to the mountain, rather than trying to dominate its surroundings.

“It’s a very responsive facility and I think they see it as an offering to the mountain.”

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