Animal Warmth No 64, a minimal installation of only carbon filament bulbs, timed movements of light, and composed sound, startles, perplexes, and entrances visitors. The term "animal warmth" had a brief flare as a serious concept in music criticism in the early twentieth century, particularly in describing music by such composers as Ernst Bloch and Arnold Schoenberg. It is now a witty phrase used by composers of non-melodic, atonal modern and contemporary music, usually electronic or computer generated, when they want to soften and humanize a section of their piece.
Self described "builder, composer, and performer interested in the poetics of gesture, effect, and performance," Ali Momeni, now Assistant Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, holds a doctoral degree in music composition, improvisation, and performance with computers from the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at UC Berkeley. He has been creating various iterations of the serial artwork Animal Warmth for several years, exhibiting them most often in group exhibitions arranged by such venues as the Almost Cinema Festival at Vooruit in Gent, Belgium. For the first time at The Sculpture Center, Momeni has been able to show Animal Warmth alone in a separate room which has allowed a significant expansion of its presence and impact.
With a fourteenth century multi-voiced choral piece as the background, Momeni has composed computer generated music that selects notes from the singing and turns them into atonal sounds that are linked to the light bulbs. Each two bulbs in the line of sixty have a sound associated with them. Flashing with light that also warms the bulbs, they ring with a unique pure tone as they come to life and fade out. With real-time software, the music and lights express a never-ending, never-repeating variety of moods. These moods span synchrony and asynchrony, phasing, rhythmic correspondence, and trickery. The bulbs' frequencies shift with the tonal and luminous moods of the installation.
With music highly evocative of such giants as John Cage and Elliott Carter, Momeni's Animal Warmth series can be seen as a take on certain composers and artists, from the Russians Alexander Scriabin and Wassily Kandinsky to Walt Disney, who were deeply interested in a sort of synesthesia that reveals the relationship between color and sound. Scriabin actually built a primitive color keyboard and wrote notation for lights and colors. Kandinsky's paintings were highly theoretical embodiments of timber, pitch, and volume. The opening movement of Walt Disney's Fantasia used animated line, shapes, and colors to portray the music. Momeni has lightly and deftly moved these somewhat obsessive concerns into the contemporary arena of expanded media.
about the artist
Ali Momeni is a builder, composer, and performer interested in the poetics of gesture, effect, and timing. His work makes use of all manners of technology to explore the social lives of objects and their embedded performative qualities. His creative output ranges from kinetic sculptures and sound installations, to urban interventions and music theater performance. Momeni was born in Isfahan, Iran, and emigrated to the United States at the age of twelve. He studied physics and music at Swarthmore College, completing his doctoral degree in music composition, improvisation, and performance with computers from the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at UC Berkeley. He spent three years in Paris where he collaborated with performers and researchers from La Kitchen, IRCAM, Sony CSL and CIRM. After four years as an assistant professorship in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he directed the Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Art, and where he runs an urban projection collective called the MAW, Momeni began teaching in the art department of Carnegie Mellon University in February 2012.