A Process Note by Yevgeniy Sharlat
Tales We Tell is a series of small-scale mechanical sculptures based on folk tales popular in Western and Eastern Europe. Collectively, they examine the underlying moral messages of fairy tales and their effect on child’s psyche. Each sculpture is a wind-up music box comprised of a painted wooden box with moving figures, as well as music clockwork that plays a melody particular to each scene.
The music is played by a revolving brass cylinder that plucks the tuned teeth of a steel comb. All of the melodies are restricted to the notes of the particular comb with a cycle of 15 seconds in duration. Most are composed in a way that allows the end to seamlessly connect with the beginning, so as not to hinder a sense of forward motion. Engineer Theodore Johnson translated the rhythm into degrees of rotation and mapped the pitches onto their corresponding locations along the cylinder. The resulting calculations produced a 3D model, which was then printed and cast in bronze.
This wind-up mechanism has been in use since 18th century, charming children and adults alike with its timeless sound (think a mobile playing Brahms’ “Lullaby”), and its existence coincides historically with the period when the tales have gained popularity. In this project, we go beyond charming: the melodies are written to underscore the emotion of each scene, or, as in the case of “The Bremen Musicians”, to showcase a performer. Some are purposely insouciant, others commiserative.