At the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas; a new project is under way. Funded by art philanthropists Ernest and Sara Butler (a cool 5 millions was dropped) the art installation is set to open to the public in 2022.
Being built by Norwegian based architecture firm, Snøhetta, a sound garden is what is expected to become part of a revitalization mission. It will be set as an open space park, where listeners will stroll through.
What does this sound garden entail? For it’s first commission, a sound artist by the name of Bill Fontana (who started his passion in sound art back in the 50s and 60s) is tasked with traveling across the Bay Area region to record sounds. In his previous project, he had created the SoundScape park in Miami Beach, Florida.
One of Fontana’s goal is to capture the echolocation sounds of bats. Since the sound is not perceptible to the human ear, Fontana will be controlling the sound quality.
The Butler Sound Gallery will be the first of its kind, only specializing in the art form of sounds. Fontana’s installation is expected to be displayed for two years and with the large endowment from the Butlers, there will be future sound commissions to come.
Sound art, also known as sound installation is nothing new. It goes back as far as 1913, where futurist Luigi Russolo invented sound machines to recreate the bang and clang of the industrial revolution.
Not long after that the Dadaists and Surrealists picked up on the medium, spawning such works as Marcel Duchamp’s Erratum Musical and John Cage’s 4’33.” With the advent of digital technology, sound art took a vast transformation; since the technology is there to make it more inventive and creative.
In my area of Denver, artist Jim Green installed grates into the sidewalk of the 16th street mall (a touristy hotspot) and placed recorded sounds underneath. What one hears is not exactly what you would think, since he collected a variety of sounds that range from a lion’s roar to ocean waves. It’s titled Soundwalk like sidewalk; get it?
Recently, Denver musician Divya Maus invented a geolocation software that allows people to listen to different sounds depending on where they are standing in a park. You could be listening to cows mooing under a tree or the music of grasshoppers while sitting on a bench.