News / Arts & Entertainment

Audio Art Sounds Off at NYC Art Museum

Tristan Perich's "Mictrotonal Wall" breaks down "white noise" into 1500 of an infinite number pitches that can be experienced together and in sequence by MoMA visitors. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Tristan Perich's "Mictrotonal Wall" breaks down "white noise" into 1500 of an infinite number pitches that can be experienced together and in sequence by MoMA visitors. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Adam Phillips
Art is thought of as a visual medium, but sound is the focus of a new show at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

MoMA presents an auditory landscape with an exhibit called "Soundings, a Contemporary Score."

“The museum-goer walks into a space, and because they are in MoMA, they know they are going to see something traditional, like Picasso," said curator Barbara London. "But they are going to see something very unconventional and maybe surprising. Maybe they’re baffled.”

Many museum-goers are baffled, then amused by Richard Garet’s “Before Me” installation, which amplifies the sound of a glass marble spinning on the metal casing of a phonograph turntable.  

Audio Art Sounds Off NYC Modern Art Museum
Audio Art Sounds Off NYC Modern Art Museum i
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

Sound, video and memory combine in “Music While We Work,” by Hong-Kai Wang, in which Taiwanese retirees record the sounds they heard during their working life at a sugar refinery.  

There’s a common theme among the 16 artists represented here.   

“I think most of the artists in the show want you to listen or pause and listen," London said. "They’re saying, ‘Hey, slow down. There are various forms of poetry and beauty in the world.’”

It is the world the unaided human ear cannot hear that animates Norwegian artist Jana Winderen’s sound montage, “Ultrafield.”

Audio Art Sounds Off at NYC Art Museumi
X
August 16, 2013 7:07 PM

Winderen used echolocation devices to capture the ultrasonic radar made by bats, and tiny ultra-sensitive underwater microphones to record the movements of sea beetles less than two millimeters long. She wants to draw attention to endangered ecosystems in the earth’s hidden worlds, and give the listener a chance to experience their magic.    

“It's installed in a dark space," Winderen said. "And I am actually hoping people can slow down and enjoy also the listening experience itself, not necessarily thinking about what it is, or what kind of a message I have with it.”

Some sounds are hiding in plain sight, but we don’t have the subtlety of perception to pick them out. At a distance of five meters or so, Tristan Perich’s  “Microtonal Wall,” emits “white noise.”

That is a sound containing so many sounds, or pitches, that no individual one can be distinguished. Leaves rustling in the breeze and the ocean surf are both examples of the phenomenon.

Perich has broken four octaves of the musical scale into 1,500 of the pitches that make up those octaves and given each pitch its own small speaker. Close up, or moving slowly past those speakers, one hears their differences.

"My piece, with 1,500 speakers, each playing individual pitches, is still just a finite fraction of this infinite sound," Perich said. "It’s just a gesture towards this idea of the infiniteness of white noise, building it up.”   

Sound that is implied, rather than heard, has made some of the loudest buzz at the MoMA show. Camille Norment’s work “Triplight,” consists mostly of a stand-up steel ribbed microphone, circa 1955, used by performers like Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. Inside the mic, she has placed a bright flickering light. 
Loneliness and the horrors of the Holocaust are evoked by Susan Philipz' acoustic work "Study for Strings." (Adam Phillips/VOA)Loneliness and the horrors of the Holocaust are evoked by Susan Philipz' acoustic work "Study for Strings." (Adam Phillips/VOA)
x
Loneliness and the horrors of the Holocaust are evoked by Susan Philipz' acoustic work "Study for Strings." (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Loneliness and the horrors of the Holocaust are evoked by Susan Philipz' acoustic work "Study for Strings." (Adam Phillips/VOA)

“One thing I wanted to do was to play with the idea of inability of articulation, the stuttering voice perhaps, this desire to express oneself and the struggle it often entails," Norment said. "And the light casts a shadow that is reminiscent of vertebrae and ribs, or a ribcage or a mask. So the piece, in a way, reenacts the presence of the body that is no longer present.”

Susan Philipsz' “Study for Strings,” is the most heart-wrenching piece in the show. It’s based on a 1943 orchestral work Czech composer Pavel Haas wrote while in a German concentration camp.

Soon after performing the work for a Nazi propaganda film, Haas and his orchestra members were killed. The musicians in Philipsz’ artwork play only two of the parts in the score, emphasizing the absence of the other players.

It’s just one of the pieces in the Museum of Modern Art's “Soundings” show that highlight the dance between silence and sound.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid counter-terror intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”