Dezeen Magazine

Conductor Teddy Abrams leaning on conductor's rail designed by Joseph Walsh Studio

Joseph Walsh Studio crafts sculptural conductor's rail for Louisville Orchestra

Irish furniture workshop Joseph Walsh Studio has created a conductor's rail for Teddy Abrams, music director of the Louisville Orchestra, featuring a dynamic bentwood form that reflects the "energy of live music".

Joseph Walsh designed and produced the unique stage piece as a gift to the Kentucky orchestra after bonding with Abrams, who is also a Grammy Award-winning composer, over their common vision of the arts as a means of bringing people together.

Hand holding conducting baton in front of bent-wood conductors rail
Joseph Walsh designed a custom conductor's rail for Teddy Abrams

Walsh was influenced by Abrams' exuberant conducting style, creating a design that breaks with the conventions of a conductor's rail as a basic platform and horizontal rail.

"As a conductor, Teddy Abrams is full of energy and tries to reach each person in the orchestra, which gave me the idea of creating a rail that would swipe around to hold him but also capture the movement, as if it is tracing the movement of the baton," Walsh said.

Conductor's rail designed by Joseph Walsh Studio
The rail is made from white ash with an ebonised base

Walsh's studio, founded in County Cork in 1999, is known for using traditional woodworking and stone carving techniques in new ways to create objects with bold and expressive forms.

As with many of the designer's pieces, the conductor's rail uses a process of laminating and steam-bending wood to create its fluid sculptural form.

Senior makers Jonathan Otter and Gabriel Hielscher worked alongside Walsh to create the complex piece, formed of a flowing line of white ash that extends upwards from the podium before twisting back on itself and curving downwards to its original starting point.

The rounded podium, on which Abrams stands, is also made from ashwood that was ebonised so it contrasts with the rail while blending in with the stage and the orchestra.

The design aims to ensure the conductor's rail has a strong presence amongst the orchestra's musicians and their instruments, most of which are very distinctive and familiar.

Conductor Teddy Abrams leaning on conductor's rail
It was designed to reflect Abrams' exuberant conducting style

"The challenge of making such a piece did not revolve around its crafting – it's an area that we are experienced in – but on how relevant it would be in the orchestra," Walsh explained.

"We were adding this new, very contemporary piece into an ensemble of instruments that have existed for centuries. We look forward to seeing how it will fit in with all of these instruments that were there long before."

Senior maker Keisuke Kawai also created a simple yet elegant baton for Abrams using the same laminated ash as the conductor's rail.

Conductor's rail designed by Joseph Walsh Studio
The wood was steam-bent and laminated into shape

"The piece is exquisite and unique," Abrams said of the design. "It lives and breathes with the same fluidity as a conductor and with the same energy of live music. Joseph's insight into the physicality of music-making is manifest in his brilliant and beautiful work."

Joseph Walsh Studio comprises a design studio, workshop and gallery based around an 18th-century farmhouse on the south coast of Ireland.

Walsh's previous projects include a towering watch cabinet shaped like a bulging seed case that is accompanied by a snaking ebonised ash bench.

The photography is by Jon Cherry.