Do You Hear What I Hear?
Caramoor's sound exhibition spreads throughout the regions
Right now, if you’re reading this at home, you might hear your dishwasher’s rinse cycle kicking in, the dog’s collar clinking, followed by the thunk of a door shutting, the tap-tap-tapping of your daughter’s keyboard, and a whooshing from your air-conditioning vent. Together, these noises create a soundtrack of your daily life. But, what if you took those sounds and orchestrated them to engage an audience in a public space—would you call it art?
While even the most ardent art and music aficionados may not have heard of sound art, its roots are deep and tangled, encompassing explorations and encounters with both sound and the visual arts. “Sound art transforms its surroundings by creating situations that galvanize perception, participation, awareness and reflection,” says Jeff Haydon, CEO of Katonah’s Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, where an unprecedented sound art exhibition will debut on June 7.
Caramoor commissioned sound artist Stephan Moore to develop and curate a multi-artist, multi-venue exhibit, In the Garden of Sonic Delights. Together with other Hudson Valley cultural power-houses—Jacob Burns Film Center, Lyndhurst, Neuberger Museum of Art, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, and Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art—Caramoor will host 15 site-specific artworks (ten of which will be at Caramoor) for five months. “Caramoor and the other participating organizations provide an ideal setting for In the Garden of Sonic Delights,” explains Moore, who has been working at the forefront of the contemporary, experimental audio world for the past 15 years. “We can provide inspiring environments, engaged and artistically curious audiences, and a wealth of diverse cultural experiences beyond the exhibition, ready to be discovered.”
For In the Garden of Sonic Delights, each artist in the exhibition approaches his or her chosen site differently, paying attention to details to find inspiration. They may respond to a particular location’s history, its acoustic properties, the forms of nature present, or how the public engages with it. As the seasons change throughout the exhibition, so will the audience experience; a specific work encountered on a hot summer day will differ from that same work experienced on a cool fall evening.
Some of the artworks at Caramoor include a repurposed fountain in the Sunken Garden, that will feature a stream of water shaped by inaudible-range sound waves; a sound sculpture that will use trees, piano wire, and speakers to create eruptions of sound and moments of silence; and a manifestation through sound of ghostly presences in the Music Room, designed to represent Caramoor founders Lucie and Walter Rosen’s spirits. In addition to curating, Moore, himself, will create a system of listening software and self-playing instruments that will be in constant dialogue with their environment in Caramoor’s Sense Circle. At partner organizations’ sites, artists will create similarly compelling exhibits.
“Like painting or sculpture, sound art can be narrative or expressive, representational or abstract,” Moore continues, noting that unlike those fields “it benefits from the history of art- and music-making without having a long history of its own to contend with. This position affords sound art the flexibility to engage with concepts from those fields as readily as it responds to recent developments in perception, acoustics, and technology.”