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Listen Hear: The Art of Sound

Wed, Mar 8 2017 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

$5 – $15

Listen Hear: The Art of Sound
March 8 – September 5, 2017
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way Boston, MA 02115

Of the five senses, sight seems to dominate our contemporary life, with its overload of visual stimuli from advertising to artworks. But hearing is a close second. Listen Hear: The Art of Sound explores some of the ways sound affects our environment, our bodies, and our state of mind.

Listen Hear: The Art of Sound is a group exhibition featuring seven sound works in the Gardner and two off-site pieces of public art. Spread across both the Gardner’s historic and new buildings, the works demonstrate the rich variety of this contemporary medium. The two public art pieces outside the Museum offer new ways to experience the city of Boston. Fens (a downloadable app) is an immersive listening walk in a nearby park, while Harmonic Conduit live-streams from city streets around the Ruggles T station.

Sound in general, and especially music, was important to Isabella Stewart Gardner. Throughout her life she supported musicians and composers, organized musical evenings for her friends, and regularly attended other concerts. Gardner understood that sound plays a critical role in creating a sense of place, and installed fountains in and around the Courtyard to make sound a permanent feature of her Museum.

Listen Hear is a different kind of museum experience, offering new insights into the spatial, social, and aesthetic dimension of sound.

Monday: 11 am–5 pm
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 11 am–5 pm
Thursday: 11 am–9pm
Friday: 11 am–5 pm
Saturday: 11 am–5 pm
Sunday: 11 am–5 pm

Adults: $15
Seniors 65 and up: $12
College Students: $5 with current ID

Su-Mei Tse (Luxembourgian, b. 1973)
in collaboration with Jean-Lou Majerus
Sound for Insomniacs, 2007
Five lambda digital prints on semi-glossy photo paper, two stools with integrated MP3 players, screens, and headphones

About the work:
Five cats portrayed in a close up take on very human expressions. Listening to the sonic vibrations of their purrs reveals the startling individuality of each cat, and it is an invitation to listen deeply beyond ourselves to nature and to the nuances of wordless communication.

About the Artist:
Su-Mei Tse is a musician and artist whose work often combines visual and sound components.

Philippe Rahm (Swiss, b. 1967)
in collaboration with composer Sebastian Rivas
Sublimated Music, 2014-2017
Multi-channel sound piece; Work produced for the 2014 Open Museum Open City exhibition. MAXXI Museum Collection, Rome.

About the work:
An immersive soundscape of sound and light. Shattering the melody of a piece of music by Claude Debussy into a burst of notes gives a new understanding of the power of sound to shape our sense of gallery space.

About the Artist:
Philippe Rahm is a principal in Philippe Rahm architectes based in Paris, France. His design approach is based on the dissociation of ideas: to deconstruct the “whole” into its elements, and then to recompose it according to a new hierarchy of priorities and needs.

Helen Mirra (American, b. 1970)
Ernst Karel (American, b.1970)
Municipals, 2017
Six-channel audio piece
On view Fridays only

About the work:
To create this sonic portrait of Boston, Karel made quadraphonic recordings in three kinds of public places: branches of the Boston Public Library, Boston City Hall, and designated urban wilds. At each site, Helen Mirra plays various small instruments: echo harmonica (libraries), morchang (urban wilds) and wood block. Complementing this primary material are recordings from a performance on orchestral bass drum, tom and snare by Mirra in Boston’s acoustically remarkable Cyclorama.

About the Artists:
Helen Mirra is a conceptual artist who explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of the people who live in it.
Ernst Karel makes experimental nonfiction sound works for multichannel installation and performance. He teaches sonic ethnography at Harvard University.

Lee Mingwei (Taiwanese, b. 1964)
Small Conversation, 2017
Multi-channel sound piece

About the work:
A subtle soundscape composed of insect sounds and amphibian night calls. Intending to heighten our awareness of the Museum Courtyard installation and to reveal how often natural sounds are neglected or drowned out by human noise.

About the Artist:
Paris-based Lee Mingwei is known for participatory installations that explore issues of trust, intimacy and social connection. The artist invites you to sit around the courtyard and listen to a soundscape that blurs the distinction between inside and outside, nature and artifice.

Philip Beesley (English, b. 1956)
Sentient Veil, 2017
Fabric, LED lights, glass, acoustic resonators

About the work:
A responsive sculptural installation that reacts sonically to your presence. A digitally fabricated cellular textile comes to life with a mixture of whispers that approach human speech along with clicks, gentle tones and vibrating sounds creating a quiet chorusing. Inorganic forms become conscious and communicative through digital magic.

About the Artist:
Philip Beesley is an architect who teaches at the School of Architecture, University of Waterloo, and is Professor of Digital Design and Architecture & Urbanism at the European Graduate School. He is the Director of the Living Architecture Systems Group. Philip Beesley’s work is focused in the rapidly expanding technology and culture of responsive and interactive systems.

David Grubbs (American, b. 1967)
Your Shadow on a Cloud, 2017
Multi-channel sound piece

About the work:
A meditation on the long history of music making at the Gardner Museum. Like clouds and shadows the experience of musical performances is fleeting. Inspired in part by the sounds that have echoed in the galleries over the last hundred years, this composition plays with texture, time and memory.

About the Artist:
David Grubbs is Professor of Music at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. At Brooklyn College he also teaches in the MFA programs in Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) and Creative Writing.

Moritz Fehr (German, b. 1981)
Undertone, 2017 (12 minutes)
Single-channel ultrasonic sound installation
Music by Michel LambertOmbre de mon Amant
The Four Nations Ensemble:
Soprano: Pascale Beaudin
Lute: Daniel Swenberg
Harpsichord: Andrew Appel

About the work:
A sonic evocation of Vermeer’s Concert stolen in 1990. This installation honors the absent painting in a very new way as fragments of sound suggest what was once there. The sounds of a harpsichord playing and someone singing will be reminders of the intimate scene portrayed in the painting.

About the Artist:
Moritz Fehr’s work investigates the nature of sound in terms of metaphorical presence and spatial implications.

Elisa H. Hamilton (American, b. 1983)
Sound Lab, 2017
(March 11- March 18)

About the work:
What does Boston sound like? This interactive listening space presents soundscapes from a variety of Boston neighborhoods. Together with four community organizations (located on the room-sized floor map), Elisa Hamilton gathered signature sounds from Boston’s past and present, and then edited the results into visually arresting vinyl records. In this age of solitary listening, we encourage you to explore the sounds and to participate in a communal audio experience.

Choose from the new lathe cut records or vintage vinyl reflecting Boston’s rich musical traditions, and play them on custom-built turntables. Daily open mic sessions will encourage improvisation and spontaneous sharing. All are welcome to touch, to discover, to listen, and to be a part of the Sound Lab.

This installation was developed in partnership with youth from Hyde Square Task Force, Roxbury Youth Orchestra, and the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers, and with participants in the AiLi series at Haley House Bakery Café.

About the Artist:
Elisa H. Hamilton is a Boston multimedia artist whose practice focuses on the creation of inclusive artworks that emphasize shared experiences and the inherent joy of our everyday places, objects, and experiences.

Teri Rueb (American, b. 1968)
Ernst Karel (American, b.1970)
Fens, 2017
Downloadable app

About the work:
Fens is an emplaced, responsive sound piece that introduces another layer onto the palimpsest that is the Back Bay Fens. Rather than a physical intervention, however, this one is invisible, experienced through engaging in the act of listening while simply being in the park. Made for headphones connected to an Android or iOS device running the freely downloadable app, Fens creates an auditory environment in response to a participant’s location as they explore the park. The piece extends throughout the entire area from the Riverway to the west, to Charlesgate to the northeast.

The piece is composed mainly from location recordings made in the Back Bay Fens in different seasons, different weather, at different times of day and night. Inspired by Olmsted’s fascination with parks as confluences of natural and social processes, the piece takes up landscape as a site of interaction between human and non-human elements evoked through sound. Formerly present moments are re-enlivened as audio; layers of time become audible and blend with the contemporary moments of each encounter. A variety of sounds from fragments of speech to fragments of birdsong, weather to waterways, foreground to background to underground, evoke the different scales and temporalities of human and non-human processes that shape the landscape. A unique sequence of sounds unfolds with each itinerary as visitors explore the site, following their curiosity and pursuing cues implied by the features of the environment itself.

Sam Auinger (Austria, b. 1956)
Bruce Odland (American, b. 1952)
Harmonic Conduit, 2017
(opens April 2017)

About the work:
O+A transforms noise into harmony at the busy urban transportation hub of Boston’s Ruggles Station. Two communities, essentially divided by the architecture and functionality of the station with its roads and rail lines, will be connected by a conduit of harmonic sound waves.

The soundscape at Haley House Cafe in Lower Roxbury will be a primary source. Using a special “tuning tube,” the sounds of traffic, people, music, bicycles, and jets, will be transformed into harmonic resonance, and played back in real-time from specially designed speakers mounted on the monolithic wall on the Northeastern University side of the station. (The tuned sound will also be played back in the Cafe’s vestibule in real time.)

The quite different soundscape of Northeastern University with its hive of activity, trains, busses, voices, electrical hums, will be transformed into harmony and heard from overhead reflections from the vaulted glass arch on the other end of the station. The sonic identity of the station will be altered by the addition of a soft halo of harmonic resonance, coupling with the station’s architecture, creating a new way to hear and feel urban space. And a new way to hear the connection between two communities.

About the Artists:
Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger are sonic thinkers, composers, and sound artists whose central theme is a “Hearing Perspective” of the world we live in. They are known for their large scale, public space sound installations, which transform city noise into harmony in real-time. O+A have been altering the sonic identity of public spaces with large scale installations since their first resonance installation in Trajan’s forum in Rome, “Traffic Mantra” in 1991. They generate harmony from the chaos of urban noise with “tuning tubes” and specially designed loudspeakers. They have created over 30 such works, both temporary and permanent around the world. Starting in 2009 O+A began to focus on the idea of a “Sonic Commons”, questioning the dominance of the visual culture in our perception of the world.

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License(unless otherwise indicated) © 2019