MoMA, Multiphonic Sound, Jogging

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Finally made it out to the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon. Yup.

Didn’t stay too long — just an hour-and-a-half or so — but I got the nerdy little art experience I needed. (I sometimes get uncomfortable spending hours and hours in museums… Maybe I should get one of MoMA’s $75 season passes so I can go whenever I want for a few minutes here-and-there when I happen to be in Midtown. Friday evenings are free, though, I suppose…)

The highlight of my brief tour was a forty-channel recording of a choral piece, produced by some British sound artist and installed into its own room. The producer recorded a group of forty choirists, each miced individually. And the resulting experience was luch and uncannily realistic — especially the first few minutes of the playback during which the singers quietly coughed and whispered to one another and did simple vocal warm-ups. If you were to close your eyes, you would’ve thought the room full of quietly jibbering tourists.

It seems like a good way to raise the energy level of any space might be to have a sound-system like that installed with a quiet hum of chatter playing out of it. For example, if you wanted to add some warmth-of-sound to a restaurant without turning up the Muzak hits or the radio you could put in the “Ambeint Chatter Volume 4: Restaurants” and maybe compel your live patrons to talk louder and have a livelier time. Maybe this already happens…

Anyway, I would really like to experiment more with multichannel sound for performance. It seems like there was a moment in the 70s when quadrophonic sound hit a trendy peak, and now we’re kind of in a small Renaissance of 5.1 channel sound composition — but I still haven’t ever gone to an electronic music performance in a club (that wasn’t self-consciously “art”) and heard anything more than old-fashioned stereo coming out of the sound-system. With all of the developments in sound production and performance, I wonder why we haven’t seen much of this.

Otherwise my MoMA experience was good. I just walked around the second floor of the museum for the entire time, looking around by myself. Saw the Pixar 3D Zoetrope and the hi-res video showing off some of the concept work for the five Pixar flicks. And an exhibition of modern photographers. And various other stuff. Media installations seem to be big. Saw several video-based pieces in the collection.

Later I took a refreshing run up the Hudson River from Houston to about 60th street. Very nice. Running in Manhattan is so easy because there’s always distracting stuff to look at and think about while you plod along… All sorts of excitement exists along the Hudson, from a trapeze school to a skate park, an aircraft carrier that’s been converted into a museum, lots of big buildings, a lovely view of Jersey, traffic, helipads, monkey knife-fighting, etc.