Knitting a symphony

The rhythmic motion of knitting is used to create a uniquely innovative music performance

The Craft

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In a unique marriage of wool and music, the Vogue Knitting Live! NYC gala dinner will be made all the more special with an extraordinary performance piece, Killing Time – A Knitted Soundscape. The brainchild of Dutch-born and Wales-based composer Jobina Tinnemans, the innovative piece is a soundscape created by performing knitters, each using custom-developed knitting needles which each trigger tiny snippets of sound, together creating a rich musical performance.

Living in West Wales, with vast natural scenery, Tinnemans conceived of the idea to create the sorts of sounds she hears on her daily walks – flocks of sea birds, rustling grass, squeaking gorse branches – in the context of a live performance. “It occurred to me that knitting needles are two pieces of metal which make contact in a rhythmic, yet random way, much like the rhythms of nature,” she explains. “I made knitting needles that are electronically attached to my computer. Whenever a pair of needles touches, it’s like pressing a key on a keyboard, and a unique sound will emerge.”

It’s certainly not the most common approach to musical performance, but Tinnemans says that there is a natural connection between the disparate art forms. “In a poetic sense, sheep, crafts and wool are the centre of my community and landscape [in Wales], so what better way to feature it in my work? “I hope to make people feel welcome by having anyone that can knit feature in my work, and it has been a very sharing and warm experience.” For the performers, too, it offers a new way of looking at their work. “I’d never experienced anything like this before, it’s so tactile,” said one knitter. “I felt I could channel my emotion into knitting, and I really like being a musician in this performance.”

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