It was by chance that my wife and I found ourselves inside Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum the other day, and I realized with a strange sense of “of course” that one of the exhibits was something I had shared out to the Networked Narratives world a few week ago, during our work with Sound and Story.
And here I was, wandering into the Art of Sound.
Stewart’s museum is intriguing, as the inside “palace” inside is chock full of all sorts of artistic wonders, and a few missing pieces (the museum was the scene of a great unsolved art heist many years ago). She was a patron of musicians, as is evident from collections of letter and music-themed art.
The Art of Sound is a series of sound pieces scattered about the museum (and other public spaces around Boston, apparently) that seeks to offer “new insights into the spatial, social, and aesthetic dimension of sound,” according to the museum information.
Each piece does have an interesting aural experience for the listener, and I appreciated how difficult it must be to create a sound experience in a museum built on the visual. One work, with LED lights and hanging crystals, reacts to your presence, giving off a sonic hum, as if enveloping you into the experience.
Another work is centered the purring of cats, which my wife and I found quite amusing. As you stare at huge close-up portraits of cats, who seem quite content to get their image taken, you listen to headphones of purring, and you move through the different tonal qualities of each cat’s individual purr. We found ourselves trying to remember the purr of our late cat, Coltrane.
In another piece, a massive room has been converted into a soundscape, where lights flicker on and off on the floor as a melody plays. The walls are full of speakers, set at different heights, to give an other-worldly element to the exhibit. We were there during the day, but I bet in fading light, the colors connected to the music would be even more interesting.
I found this video at the museum site, talking about one of the exhibits out in Boston that you can experience via an app.