At the recent Dumbo Art Under The Bridge Festival in Brooklyn, N.Y., I heard two rather amazing sound installations.
OrganicInterfaces is a collective of artists, scientists, engineers, and musicians and their installation, Mocean was a truly enveloping sound experience. Their Web Site describes it this way, Mocean is a site-specific sculptural sound environment. It consists of a large water tank and a forest of antique organ pipes...digital technology translates the (water's) ripple patterns into sounds played by the repurposed organ pipes, establishing a relationship between water and sound. For the DUMBO Art Festival, we used a 12-foot diameter swimming pool and some new technologies, expanding the range of possible interactions and sculptural interventions..."
At the DUMBO show, Mocean was located in a small warehouse garage, open to the street. Flat stones were placed in the pool to serve as a path for people to walk over. The organ pipes hanging from the ceiling were tuned to different pitches and their sounds were complex and surprisingly musical. I listened for quite a while and found the sound absolutely mesmerizing.
Actually, the best part was watching how different people reacted to the sound as they walked over the stones. Some realized their movements changed the sound, and they "played" the organ pipes by swaying their arms and moving about. Little children were the best; they were totally uninhibited about making weird sounds.
Then there was Ted Southern's sidewalk sound show.
I'll let Ted provide the details, "I was interested in placing sound in reference to the human body in an interesting way, and developed the idea of a series of speakers which a user could manipulate. The flat layout was a compromise, as the original intention was to have the piece in an elevator, so that the speakers could surround the user. The sound producing circuits, two theremin-like devices using photocells to manipulate pitch, were fortuitous and interesting 'accidents.' I was obviously interested in aesthetics, and tried to give the work a visual, horizontal feel...also, most of my work ends up being interactive, so a robust platform for user interaction was key."
I diddled the controls, and it really was fun to hear the sound change, but it was even better when I stood back and heard the speakers from five or six feet away. The sound had a very spatial, phasey quality, very interesting stuff.
Check Southern's Web site to learn more about his art.