This month, seven of SVAD Professor Scott F. Hall’s sculptural musical instrument designs were shown in FEEDback, a curated group exhibition in the Italian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. For 120 years, the Biennale has been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world, today drawing an audience of over 500,000. Since 1980 and again in 2021, the Biennale has featured architecture.
The exhibition FEEDback in the Italian Pavilion situated discourses in design control through the essays and projects of architects, fashion designers, interactivity designers, musicians and artists, presenting their creations in close proximity to show individual disciplines and also reveal their hybrid diversity of form and concept. FEEDback was a trans-disciplinary project in architecture under development for over seven years, generated by experimental strategies of direct application to the scale of the human body and its surrounding mediated environment. Hall’s contribution to the show included one electric guitar, two electric basses, and four horns. His compact and fully functional instruments were individually handcrafted with an eye to less technological saturation and a more sustainable future, involving fewer component parts and minimalist fabrication methods. To that end, Hall works carefully by hand using renewable domestic wood, and he employs a less toxic finish.
Since the first one made in 1984, each original Hall instrument is conceived with simplicity in mind. His penchant for precise, austere form and function roots in his upbringing in the 1960s and ‘70s, when severely planar handmade “one-off” concept cars such as the Alfa Romeo Carabo and the Michelotti Matra Laser struck him as sensible and unforgettable. To create today, Hall employs freehand artistic drawing and uses a set of analog mathematical instruments, preserving a link to the architectural drafting class he took at age 13. He transfers each design to wood and engages in making as a solo luthier: he glues and laminates, cuts with handheld power tools, files, sands and ultimately spends an entire week perfecting the hand painted and varnished finish of every piece.
Hall’s instruments are owned and played by scores of musicians in the US and abroad ranging from symphonic professionals to collectors. In the case of this series of seven originals, six were reproduced in an edition of 13, and 19 of the group of 20 prototypes and products were sold to musicians and collectors.