In the course of his life George Smits made all sorts of experimental musical instruments, often from metal, polystyrene and bamboo. Smits’ constructions frequently transcended the status of instrument: on many occasions they almost filled the entire space (of the gallery) and thus they were more like a sculpture.

For the medium-sized Instrument for 1 Song, he combined several effects into 1 bloc—effects ‘that seem either harmonic or expressive, so that on 1 instrument the entire sound range can be played (bass, rhythm and solo).’ The work was a constellation of polystyrene, coil springs, metal cables/strings and rubber bands, in which Smits also incorporated an antique Westminster chime mechanism.

Smits—who was called Toet in Ferre Grignard’s band, where he played the harmonica—wanted to democratize art: creating instruments and art with cheap materials, as well as making use of the popular media (radio, film, posters, billboards, comics, actions in public space, etc.) to reach out to a wider audience was one of his main goals.

In the medium-length video Instrument for 1 Song we see him at work in a domestic setting with the eponymous idiosyncratic musical instrument. He scrapes, taps and touches the metal springs with prepared drumsticks, which results in lingering, meditative sounds. What strikes us is the artist’s passion, empathy and dedication. He becomes as it were one with the sounds and his instrument, which—as the video evidences—continues to reverberate long after Smits touched it, as if it starts to lead a life of its own.

  • Format VHS(VHS)
  • Color system PAL
  • Color col.
  • Year 1986
  • Duration 00:34:00
  • Artists