Instrument Design: The Trine

Elodie Lauten photographed by Marcus Leatherdale (1985)



The trine is a string instrument comparable to the Greek lyre, with twenty-one steel strings. Amplified via contact microphone, it offers a wide range of tuning and sound processing options, though the unique quality of the sound comes mostly from the tuning designs and the layering of different tracks, rather than from the signal processing devices. It can be played either by plucking with the fingers, strumming with the hand or a light rubber mallet, or by using a bow – specifically, a glass rod. The creation of the trine was the point of coincidence of two conceptions, one that sound has become such an integral part of the compositional process that one may want to actually create a new sound, as with electronic synthesis; the second, that the physical presence of the object/musical instrument should reflect the mysterious channeling phenomenon between universal forces, the musician, and the listener’s inner being.

The shape and name of the trine were inspired by astrology. My birth chart displays the equilateral triangle called a "trine" which symbolically represents a harmony between three planets; the shape established a mystic correspondence between the instrument and astral influences. A physical correspondence was realized by proportioning the instrument to the length of my forearm and hand according to the "golden section" formula.

Sculptor Bruce Dow built the frame from my drawings. Another friend found two glass dowels in his basement and gave them to me, knowing I had been looking for a glass rod to use as a bow. When it was finished and the strings were put on, it took several weeks before it could actually hold a tuning – the wood seemed reluctant to become musical, it had no "soul". It took about two more years to train the instrument.

Music for the Trine was developed from 1985 to 1988 on eight track tape-recorders with standard effects like delay and reverb. In live performance I play the trine over a pre-recorded tape of multiple trine texture and sometimes vocalize along with it.

Music for the Trine - Scores


Copyright Elodie Lauten 2007