Dropper01, an orchestral device for eight percussion objects and drops of water

Espai 13

Exhibition program
Cycle: Once upon a time?
Arno Fabre
Curated by
Marie-Thérèse Champesme i Pascale Pronnier

The patter of rain on the canvas walls of a tent, trickling water echoing through a cave, a leaking roof in a storm, filling up bowls and dustbins in the attic, the obsessive dripping of a tap that is not properly closed: these things have always fascinated me. They conjure up a world of magic and spells, a vast percussion set played by the rain.

The percussion set is a no-frills model, the steady beat of a drip, but the sounds and rhythms undergo minute variations (standard drops, but falling in different ways) and multiply into a highly rich and complex polyrhythmic structure. It is a composition model, which plays counterpoint, offbeats, and canons, mingled with poetry that is familiar to everyone.

is a percussion instrument which explores this world by making direct use of drops of water as strikers.

In the half-light, eight percussion objects hang in a circle.
A machine comprising a computer and 24 droppers release drops of water which strike the percussion objects. The resulting faint sounds are amplified and broadcast over four sets of loudspeakers.

is an instrument which performs and interprets with precision a composition written for him: Bassines, périphérique et chasse gardée.

, produced in 2003 by Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains, is the fruit of a fertile blend of digital, acoustic and plastic arts expertise. It is part of present-day research to give substance and poetry to the “new technologies”. The technique is visible, “simple”, understandable, and always at the service of the composition, and its discovery strikes wonder. The sound quality of Dropper01, its musical potential and the poetic force of its visual and spatial presence have met with special acclaim.

Sound quality:
the slight sound vibrations produced by the percussion objects are amplified and reproduced distinctly and in real time. Choosing the percussion objects and their supports and setting up the sound sensors required an instrument maker's patience and numerous trials, adjustments and calibrations. Bringing the sound materials to fruition and searching for textures and timbres was the unifying thread of the operation. It enables us to hear new sounds and to put together a totally novel percussion orchestra.

Musical potential:
though the drops, like rain, may seem to fall at random, in fact they are released with great precision by the computer. The MaxMSP software reads a Midi score which makes it possible to control each of Dropper01's 24 “droppers”. Thus the possibilities are infinite and perfectly reproducible: it is composition. Several scores can be written, of course, and several worlds created. The drops are the performers. Since they are always different, they give rise to the microvariations which constitute the wealth of “analogical, acoustical” sound creation.

Visual and spatial presence: initially the lay-out, illumination and technical solutions were functional, structural responses. They were light, simple, ingenious responses arising from thought and technical know-how. Everything in the installation has a function and nothing is hidden. It radiates a mysteriously obvious beauty, like that of vernacular architecture. Even when it is silent, it occupies space and tells a tale.

Arno Fabre

Bassines, périphérique et chasse gardée, a composition by Arno Fabre for Dropper01 is a commission from accès(s) and the Pôle culturel intercommunal CDA Pau-Pyrénées, 2006.
“Dropper01, an orchestral device for eight percussion objects and drops of water” was produced by Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing, 2003.