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Hearing Space: A Sonic Installation in the Tree Canopy

PART VI IN THE FIFTH SPACE SERIES

 

Another way that my interest in art for the fifth space is playing out is this installation for dense arboreal spaces some distance from cities. Our primate ancestors spent much of their time is tree-filled habitats in which their social and auditory systems were refined through hundreds of generations. In such spaces where sight is limited by the trees and where bird and insect lookouts fill the canopy, the spatial perception of sound was incredibly important to understanding both threats and opportunity.



This planned artwork fills an acre or two of space in the tree canopy and below. Specially tuned chimes distributed in the treetops produce an acoustic visualization of wind patterns. As breezes move through the space, chimes and gongs are activated above, and directional sound makes the air movement apparent to those on the ground. The overhead sounds occur in the alto and soprano ranges. At ground level, human-activated chimes in the bass and tenor ranges harmonize and reinforce the higher frequencies. The crucial moment I am aiming for is when people hear the three-dimensional soundscape evolving overhead, feel welcomed back into the arboreal habitats that surrounded much of our evolution, feel compelled to make sounds of their own, and find that the sounds they’re making harmonize with the sounds of the landscape. It is that instant of making a sound and finding that it ‘fits’ with the sounds nature is making that I want all of us to experience.





By Joseph O'Connell


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