Oddstruments is a show about inventors, specificially the people who create new musical instruments and sound sources as a way of persuing their own highly idiosyncratic, experimental sensibilities.

When you talk about the life of inventors, you are talking abou the edge of a culture... about the fact that culture is permiable from all sides by ideas that are alien to it, that change it, that have no clear source. The ideas, the forms of experience that take root at any time are but a slice of possibility, certainly not the only way things could have gone (religious and scientific determinist outlooks notwithstanding). Familiarity breeds a sense of reality, but at the end of the day, we still live in a world defined by often arbitrary, strange choices made by people we have never met from previous cultures. Consider the saxophone, one of my loves--an incredibly inelegant piece of machinery which has remained nearly the same since the year of its conception, and yet, as if by its own animating power, it has produced styles of music its inventor could never have dreamed of, and would have rejected. The solution to a problem can itslef pose a probelm, and some solutions invoke no problem, they simply shift the overall frame of reference.

By necessity, we swim in possibility at every level. Consciousness is choice.

Instead of asking what would motivate the inventors in the Oddstruments exhibition to make their contributions, maybe a better question is--"why are people in general so willing to accept the world as they find it?" The sense of exhaustion, of deep lack of personal responsibility for creating the forms of life, is sometimes baffling. It goes beyond conformity to include the whole inertian suggested by the notion of "enculturation." Certainly, some people are just different, in that they never give up the feelings of fascination and pure explortion that define childhood, despite the accumulation of discipline and ability. In our society, we have the traditions of the artist, poet, actor, lunatic, and musician to contain the idea of a person who communicates content that comes from outside of the encultured patterns of perception. Each of those roles come with heavy historical baggage. I would argue that the inventors in Oddstruments, at their best, are virtuosi of a kind of unspecialized experimental consciousness.

The show is structured to be more like a Smithsonian natural history exhibition than an art show. The setting is the classical, clinical art gallery, but the majority of the instruments are actually TOOLS OF ACTION stripped from their usual contexts of performance and ongoing sonic research. Most of these items are continually in development, part of larger bodies of work that have indefinite boundries. Although many of the pieces are refined objects, enjoyable in themselves, the show is primarily focused on exposing a vital sub-culture that exists in Baltimore and around the world, and illuminating a tiny piece of its people and process. The common thread here is a lack of interest in reproducing the known, a desire to interesct with the ineffable through imaginative means of sound production. Each inventor has their own history, sensibility, and trajectory. The definition of music (or "controled sound") is expanded throughout.

More than anything, the impetus for the exhibition is the hope to inspire others to realize and refine ideas they have for new experineces (musical and otherwise) which may be outside the known culture. There is a fair amount to suggest that this sort of freedom is catching, a chain reaction of inspiration that moves outside of the linear glacier of tradition. We hope that it is!

-- John Berndt, June 2002