Drexel’s Pearlstein Gallery to Feature the U.S. Premiere of Zwei Mann Orchester (Two Person Orchestra)


SOUND MACHINES: an exhibition that will explore the interplay between sound and object, performance and sculpture, and the changing experience of sound in an age of digital reproduction is coming to Drexel University’s Pearlstein Gallery. The exhibit will feature Mauricio Kagel's Zwei Mann Orchester, a large-scale kinetic sound sculpture that utilizes orchestral instruments, household and found objects, connected through a network of levers and strings to produce an orchestra.

Visitors will be among the first in the country to witness a performance of the two-person orchestra machine presented by Bowerbird at the Pearlstein Gallery (3401 Filbert Street). The opening reception will take place on Thursday, May 3 from 5-7 p.m. followed by the premier performance at 7:00 p.m.  The exhibition will run through Thursday, May 31. (Additional performances listed below)

The original sound sculpture was created in 1973 by German-Argentine composer, artist and filmmaker Mauricio Kagel. Using hands, feet, the body or head, Kagel created a machine capable of producing the entire timbral range of the orchestra using the smallest gestures.

The Philadelphia edition of Zwei Mann Orchester is designed and created by musicians Andy Thierauf and Ashley Tini, instrument builders Yona Davidson and Neil Feather, sculptor Scott Kip, and curator Dustin Hurt.

While the original Zwei Mann Orchester is based on a notated score - complete with musical fragments, choreographic indications and even sketches of sound machines - the actual instruments are designed and built by the performers and sculptors for each installation.

Zwei Mann Orchester was originally premièred at the Donauseschingen Festival in 1973, and subsequently recreated at Documenta IX (1992) in Kassel and at Basel's Museum Tinguely in 2011. This edition marks the U.S. premiere of the work and only the fourth version ever created.  

While Kagel is most known as a composer he was also a filmmaker, a sculptor and Neo-Dadaist conceptual artist. His originality reflects his status as an outsider. Born in Buenos Aires, he did not study music at a university or conservatory, but privately with several teachers-none for composition, incidentally- and he studied philosophy and literature at the University of Buenos Aires, where the poet and short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges was one of his lecturers. Kagel was also the editor of cinema and photography for the journal Nueva Visión. In 1957, he moved to Cologne and joined, and eventually surpassed Stockhausen as the “king” of the European avant garde music epicenter.

Kagel was a master at developing new vocal and instrumental techniques. By the late 1960s, Kagel had moved well beyond traditional instruments (Kagel’s Unter Strom (1969), for example, calls for a “guitar performed by a truck supercharger”), to fantastical and often absurd creations. This trajectory lead directly to the development of Zwei Mann Orchester.

Kagel’s dedication on the Zwei Mann Orchester’s title page reads “to the memory of a dying institution, the orchestra.” The work is, in essence, Kagel’s characteristically absurdist reflection on the decay of tradition. It is an imagined future that blurs the distinction between instruments and everyday objects, questions the value we put on virtuosity, and elevates the role of the machines and technology to a point of absurdity, but in a way that restores the primacy and authenticity of the viewer’s experience. Major support for SOUND MACHINES has been provided by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the William Penn Foundation. 


Thursday, May 3 at 7 p.m.
Friday, May 4 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 13 at 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 17 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 20 at 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 24 at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 30 at 7 p.m.

Hands on Workshops:
Saturday, May 5 at 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, May 19 at 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Seated tickets are available for $15,
here. Reservations are highly recommended for all performances. 

For more information, please visit the 
Bowerbird website