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The Dervishes, for Lincoln and TED

The Dervishes have been described as sounding like ‘a choir of angry angels’ and also like ‘sniffing a thousand magic markers all at once’.

That unique sound comes from air resonating through 14 carefully tuned corrugated tubes. Robotic controls can spin each tube at a variety of precise speeds, producing four possible pitches per tube. The spinning also produces a tremolo and a Doppler-based vibrato.

In 2013 I was honored to win a Lincoln Prize, administered by TED Talks Inc. They asked me to bring a piece to Lincoln’s exhibition space at TEDActive 2013. I designed The Dervishes especially for this event.

The 8 day production window felt nearly impossible. They were built by many hands over six sleepless days and nights, though mainly by engineer Karl Biewald and myself. Then Karl and I drove them from Brooklyn, NY to Palm Springs, California in 40 hours to make the installation date. Composer Molly Herron gamely composed new music for the new and unique instrument.

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