How do you experience intimacy? Is it something you can get better at with practice? Artist and Eastern Michigan University professor Chris Reilly would like you to consider your relationship with intimacy, and to this end, facilitates workshops that invite participants to assemble and play an instrument of his own devising, called the “Linguaphone of Tremulous Communion.” On Saturday, May 14th, Reilly held one of these Intimate Instrument Workshops, which is the culmination of his recent residency at Spread Art in Detroit–part of a residency program that recently received a Knight Arts grant.
During the workshop, participants are provided with a kit that includes all the necessary components for constructing one of Reilly’s proprietary instruments. The finished product has some conceptual overlap with a thumb harp or kalimba, but the spring steel keys and frets are mounted on a dense bar of hickory, rather than a vessel, which would amplify the sound for an audience. In fact, the linguaphone has an audience of two—the two players, who activate the instrument by biting down on either side of the wooden bar, which enables the vibration caused by playing the instrument to be heard almost entirely within their skull cavities. The result is a very personal and private exchange between two people, facing each other from several inches away, and joined at the mouth by a communication device that sends vibrations directly through the teeth and into the bones. It is intimate, to say the least.