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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Sound Device Exhibit @ Root Division (San Francisco)

The gallery Root Division in San Francisco exhibited a group show of sound art, titled Sound Device, for a short time, from March 5 – 22, ending this past Saturday. I made the opening night reception, but didn’t have an opportunity to return before the exhibit shut down. I do have photos I shot that first evening, though. As with much sonic art, the works in the show tended toward the quiet, and thus experiencing the individual pieces in a packed room wasn’t the best way to appreciate them. But here’s a visual record of some of the entries, and a few observations.

At a stand that resembled Lucy’s therapy set-up in the comic strip Peanuts, Rafael Canedo made compositions on a beat box based on people’s work schedules, as delineated on time cards that the individuals completed. The performance was titled “Rhythm Life Symphony…Musical Taylorism”:

Also turning the workplace into an engine for creativity, “Dot Matrix 3.0” by Paul Slocum was an outmoded printer that makes music. Was it McLuhan who said that past technology becomes art? As the sign reads, push buttons to rock out:

Elinor J. Domol Diamond‘s “Music Box I: As Heard by the American Guild of Music, 1993” riddled some sheet music by Mozart and illuminated it from behind. The work — his Sonata in A major, K.331 — looked like it had been hit by one of William S. Burroughs’s shotguns, or run through one of Conlon Nancarrow’s player pianos:

Jeff Ray‘s “Pipe Organ / Forest” filled a corner of the room, and for opening night he performed on it by controlling the pipes with his laptop:

Luciana Ohira Kawassaki and Sergio de Moraes Bonilha Filho‘s “M.M.M.O. Minimum/Maximum Multidimensional Occupation” stretched audio tape the length of two walls and wound it through a reel-to-reel machine; the result added a visual fragility to the sound. It also brought to mind the techniques employed by early hip-hop producers to achieve their desired loops:

Two circular mats connected to an upturned cardboard box, “Collective Instrument” by PB8, allowed participants to, fairly instinctively, create collaborative, beat-based music. Stepping on the black circles in the center started and stopped loops, while the outer circles were amplified thanks to contact microphones:

Sound Device was exhibit was curated by Annie Yalon, Scott Kiernan and Deric Carner. Other artists involved included Jacqueline Gordon, Robert Jackson Harrington, Candice Jacobs, Katrina Lamb, Nina Petrochko & Paris Mancini, and Roddy Schrock. More info at rootdivision.org.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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