How aware are we of sound as we move through the course of our day? Which sounds do we register and which do we ignore? Do we even give the subject much thought?

“Quintetto” by the Italian artist collective Quiet Ensemble is an intriguing blend of music, sound and installation art.

The piece is composed of five vertical aquariums, each containing a goldfish (hence the name “Quintet”). The movements of each fish are captured on video camera. Computer software then converts these movements into digital sounds. The live composition is always changing based on the movements of the fish. Like many of John Cage’s compositions, “Quintetto” relies heavily on the element of chance, chance contained within a specific, controlled environment. The piece is never the same twice because the movements of the five fish will always vary.

The Quiet Ensemble





Goldfish Orchestra



According to Quiet Ensemble, the idea behind “Quintetto” is to capture and reveal the “invisible concerts of everyday life.”
 In other words, to transform the commonplace sound of fish moving inside an aquarium into an unexpected live event. Technology is a tool to amplify natural movements and noises we might otherwise take for granted.

These videos of “Quintetto” are mesmerizing to watch. The first video is a short version of the piece, and it is quite different from the long version, which is much darker in tone. It’s worth watching both to get a sense of how variable performances of “Quintetto” can be. The music is by Fabio Sestili with electronics by the Pixel Orchestra. The piece was produced by Quiet Ensemble and Aesop Studio. (If you’re reading this article via email, click here to watch the footage).

Quintetto promo from Quiet ensemble on Vimeo.


Quintetto from Quiet ensemble on Vimeo.

Thanks to Christopher Jobson over at Colossal for turning me onto Quiet Ensemble’s work. To explore other projects by the Italian artist collective, you can visit the Quiet Ensemble website.

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(Note: All images and video courtesy of Quiet Ensemble)