Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri: Shaping Sound

different sized cylindrical objects on their sides

Untitled II (2010), three motors, three acrylic glass robs, nylon line, elastic silicone membrane, 17 acrylic cylindrical tubes, dimensions variable.

Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri, born in 1974, is a Greek-born composer and sound artist based in Ithaca, New York, and Zurich, Switzerland. Papalexandri graduated as a composer from Goldsmith's, University of London, continuing her studies at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna and completing a doctorate in composition at the University of California–San Diego. In August 2016, Papalexandri joined the Cornell University Department of Music as an assistant professor of composition.

Papalexandri's works interweave the borderlines of sound art, composition, visual objects, and performance and explore the factors that link these art forms. Papalexandri's work has been exhibited internationally, at venues including the Asmolean Museum, Oxford, U.K.; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Museum of Musical Instruments Berlin; Tokyo Art Fair; Japan Art Media; ISEA Hong Kong; Art Taipei; Center d'Art Monica, Barcelona; San Francisco Art Institute; Biennale Disegno Rimini, Italy; Transmediale, Berlin, and the Venice Biennale of Architecture. Papalexandri's kinetic sound sculpture Speaking of Membranes, created in collaboration with Swiss artist Pe Lang, is part of the Saastamoinen permanent collection of Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland.

Papalexandri has been honored with numerous awards and residencies including the Berlin Senate Sound Art Award, Humboldt-University of Berlin International Fellowship, the Ernst Von Siemens Foundation Commission, the Dan David Prize for Contemporary Music, and the International IMPULS Composition Award. She has been a sound artist in residence at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany; the Electronic Music Studios, Stockholm, Sweden; the International House of Artists Villa Concordia Bamberg, Germany; and St. John's College, University of Oxford, U.K.


Papalexandri has created a series of works centered upon mechanical constructions that allow her to acoustically activate musical instruments, objects, architectural elements, and space presented in the context of composition, performance, sound installation, and sculpture. Her solo for sound sculptural instrument Untitled II is taken as a point of departure to address — through a combination of live performance, lecture, and open discussion — how materials become part of and shape artistic practices, and how this makes us rethink the very notion of the musical instrument. Participants are invited to experience a unique sound sculptural instrument through listening to and discussing its performance as well as the artistic process that determines its making. The instrument works through the principle of friction, using tubes, nylon lines, natural rubber, rosin, and motors. Questions for discussion include: What are the material, musical, and performative aspects that shape a musical instrument? How are our listening conventions challenged when the traditional and conventionalized properties of musical instruments are manipulated through artistic practice? How does a sound artwork/performance make us rethink notions of listening, materials, the body, and space?

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