sound art

Sound and Space

Last weekend, I went to Montalvo Arts Center to experience a collection of sound art installations. I was particularly keen on seeing/hearing an installation by my friend Shane Myrbeck and his wife Emily Shisko called Hyphae, which draws inspiration from the underground mycelium networks trees use to communicate. It's a mesmerizing piece that moves with you as you stroll along the switchback path among the trees. I took the same path home that night, and it was even more haunting, creeping up and surrounding me in the pitch-black darkness.

The evening also included tributes to Pauline Oliveros. I'm not usually much of a participator, but I joined in a circle to perform The Heart Chant (2001) (from her book Deep Listening: A Composer's Practice, which is sitting, unread, though not for long, on my living room shelves). During this performance, I felt something I haven't felt in a long time: the synchronized vibrations of many voices, resonating in chests and along arms and fingers, passing from one person to the next. It was a powerful experience and a fitting tribute to Pauline Oliveros.

Still ruminating on the experience, I stumbled (again) on old grad school writings about sound and space:

Thoughts on Bachelard, December 2003:

Walking outside this morning after reading [Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space], I was more aware of the change in soundscape as I moved from space (and place) to space (and place).  From my apartment--possessed by low level electronic hums, an occasional footfall from above, a car passing by--to the outside--sirens, loud wind blowing leaves off trees, constant traffic, pedestrians on cell phones. I thought of how Wyoming sounds to me in memories of my childhood--wind whistling, sometimes howling, through pine trees and through the edges of my bedroom windows, the muffled burble of hidden brooks, sounds unhindered by baffles of buildings, people, highway traffic. I thought of how loud air can be, as I rode my bike through Brooklyn this windy afternoon--it whooshed loud enough to erase the sounds of traffic and city life. I thought of how space--I mean outerspace!--sounds in 2001: A Space Odyssey--silent, seizing us with that vastness, deepness, that boundlessness Bachelard wrote about. But I did not think about Euclidian geometry or right angles or miles, meters, blocks of space. Except, then again, I did. Two more blocks to Smith Street, take a left at that corner, budget fifteen minutes to get there by three o'clock.