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eMuse (TM) by Jeff Talman


Sound Sites!

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The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art or Mass MOCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, USA is the new physical plant for massive modern installation work. Opened less than a year ago, the museum is formed from the resurrected industrial-sized buildings of the Sprague Electric Company. Huge works in huge spaces abound (example: Robert Rauschenberg's The 1/4 Mile Piece).

From the sound side are four installations that are about or near the grounds of the museum. The Harmonic Bridge by Bruce Odland (USA) and Sam Auinger (Austria) is first rate. The hum/whistle of highway traffic is caught in resonating tubes on a bridge and piped via computer to a concrete encased outlet below the bridge. The bridge underside is easily accessible from the Mass MOCA parking lot. Only caveat: the resonators tune the traffic. It would have been far better for the traffic's changing actual resonant tones to be the focus, rather than the externally projected tube resonance - the locked frequencies that the installation uses. Still their realization is compelling.

Also worth a listen: The Clocktower Project of Christina Kubisch (Germany) and Music for a Quarry by Walter Fähndrich (Switzerland). Unfortunately Ron Kuivila's (USA) work Visitations has little original sonic impact. Sadly the simple collaged work of former and present electric company workers talking about the workplace lacks dynamic or textural range, or decisive conceptual interest. Fortunately Ron weighs in later with a much stronger piece at a different site.

Mass MOCA: (look for Earmarks)


Riding the wild surf down under in Australia (wallaby aboard) we land at Garth Paine's site. Look for descriptions of three fetching interactive environments each with colorful, subtle graphics. Favorite title: Moments of a Quiet Mind. As for sound sources, Garth has found the self-referential feedback loop. In MAP1 the sonics are partially generated from visitors to the installation environment. The sounds are fed to James McCartney's SuperCollider program for a dose of granular synthesis and then returned to the space. Other sounds used are described at the site.

As noted at numerous websites and according to poet and sonic arts commentator Martin Harrison, the Australians have an active and varied sense of sonic installation. We'll be sure to hit on Australia in future eMuse features because there is too much not to talk about.

Garth Paine:

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Copyright © 12 March 2000 Jeff Talman, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA


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