“It’s an intersection of sculpture, music, and performance,” Kris Perry says about his project, “Machines.” “The idea is to take industrial machines that have been decommissioned, scrap metal and products of industry, and repurpose them into kinetic sculptures which create sound. And to then work with professional musicians to write compositions on these sculptures and do a performance.”
Though I had gone to Hudson to escape the distractions that Brooklyn had to offer and the constant noise of the city, upstate I found new distractions and, thanks to Kris, I wound up making a lot of noise of my own.
One night while I was there, over glasses of straight tequila I’d come to later regret, Kris told me about “Machines.” I asked him when I could expect a performance. “Here, I’ll make you a flyer,” he said, and grabbed a napkin. In a few minutes, he handed me this*:
I told him I’d definitely come back in August for it.
“You’ll be back before then,” Kris said, not an ounce of uncertainty in his voice. He seemed to know something about the lure of Hudson that I guess I hadn’t realized yet. I laughed.
I’ve been back to Hudson three or four times since the night with the tequila, and it was during my last trip up that Kris invited me to his studio to see “Machines.”
“I work in this old factory that used to be the second largest furniture factory in the world,” Kris said of his space. “It’s a large open sheet metal building, but it’s a sign of this industry that’s gone out of this country. A lot of jobs were lost when the company went out of business. It’s an industrial setting, there are a couple trains that go by. There’s an industrial landscape in Hudson.”
He led me into the factory where there were ten huge sculptures made of repurposed industrial machine parts. Some resembled musical instruments—albeit musical instruments that had entered the uncanny valley—and some looked like they came straight out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The contrast of the old, once inoperable machinery against the new control panels and electronic equipment was beautiful.
“Some of them I’ve kind of given names to,” Kris said. “One is called The Comparator named after a machine that it was built out of called an optical comparator. It’s got a speaker in it and then three sets of bass guitar strings on it. There’s a drum machine that’s three tom drums and I call that one Major Tom. There’s a pipe organ called the Pipe Organ.”
He asked me if I wanted to play, and turned them all on.
I felt like a wide-eyed kid being let into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. We took turns fiddling with the control panels and adjusting frequencies. I played the Comparator, Major Tom, the Pipe Organ. I made metal balls of various sizes vibrate on a steel table—it produced a sound like heavy rain on a tin roof. I could barely understand what I was doing, but I was nonetheless in complete control.
“Do you have a name for the tiny ball table?” I asked.
“No, I don’t have a name for that one.”
“Ok, well you can have Tiny Ball Table if you want. It’s all yours.”
I couldn’t believe how empowering it felt to play these machines, and even more so to drown myself in sound in a place so still. I don’t know if it would have felt as thrilling to be able to produce all that noise in the existing din of Brooklyn or Manhattan.
It’s hard to imagine the guy who built all of these musical sculptures actually has no musical background at all. “Part of the inspiration for the project,” Kris said, “was to be able to collaborate with my friends. And a lot of my creative group of friends are musicians and not visual artists…And music is something that is really approachable whereas sometimes fine arts can feel exclusive to certain audiences.”
“I started to create some sounds with [the musicians], and they would give me input
and say ‘Yeah, this is great, but if we’re gonna make music out of it we need certain variations. We need to be able to control the tempo.’ So the input from them helped me modify the machines.”
Performing on Kris’s “Machines” August 10th at the Hudson Music Festival will be John Rosenthal, Gideon Crevoshay, Brian Dewan, Chris Turco, Ben Fundis, Elvis Perkins, Tommy Stinson, and Kris Perry himself. When I asked Kris what he had planned for his next project: “I’d like to do some work making some short films that are three minutes or less. Filmmaking is just something that I’ve always been interested in, and I thought if I set a short time for the films and made a lot of them it would be a good way to force myself to learn about filmmaking.” So, you can probably expect see that work next year at Tribeca or something.
*An official flyer looks like this:
And tickets can be purchased here.