Aleks Kolkowski: a noise of stroviols

A hanging, string quartet of historic ‘Stroh’ instruments play in ghostly communion.  Obsolete and inanimate, they are seemingly brought to life, sounding through a matrix of tubing and wires.

Stroh violins and violas, branded Stroviols, were a mainstay of the early acoustic recording studios from 1904 until the advent of electrical recording in the mid 1920s and later in jazz and dance bands.  The quartet used in this installation is part of Kolkowski’s significant collection of hybrid, horned strings. Each instrument is connected to a concealed electronic sound-emitting device and together they play a musical score recorded on the same instruments, especially composed for this event.

CLICK HERE to watch a video of Aleks and his Stroviols in performance

Aleksander Kolkowski, as an improvising violinist and composer, has appeared at major festivals worldwide and on numerous record labels.  Over the past twelve years he has explored the potential of historical sound recording and reproduction technology, combining horned violins, gramophones and wax cylinder phonographs, to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music.  This work has been shown across Europe and in the USA and broadcast by the BBC, WDR and others.  Other large-scale works have been commissioned by MaerzMusik – Berlin, the PRSF and the BFI South Bank.

In 2002, whilst resident in Berlin, he founded Recording Angels, a project that examines our relationship to recorded sound using cylinder phonographs and acetate record cutters in performances, workshops and installations.  Over the past three years, Aleks has been compiling a large-scale archive of contemporary artists, writers and musicians exclusively on the medium of the wax cylinder. Phonographies is due to be published as an online resource by Sound And Music in the spring of 2011.  Other recent activities include a disc-recording booth for transforming discarded CDs into 45rpm records, multiple-horn sound installation work and AHRC-funded research into early forms of instrument amplification at Brunel University where he is currently completing a PhD.