Journey Through Sound and Art: A Sonic Trip Through the Northeastern US
Planning a trip across the Northeastern US? Here’s a different kind of itinerary – without the lobster rolls and without the hiking trails.
Instead, explore New England and the Mid-Atlantic’s best-kept sonic secrets, like whispering galleries and sound art installations.
Fans of John Cage will want to head to the town of Woodstock at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains – and particularly, the Maverick Concert Hall – where the celebrated composer made sound art history in 1952 unveiling his seminal “silent” work 4′33.
Immerse yourself in large-scale art on a trip to Dia in Beacon – recommended for Sundays during fall foliage.
There, you’ll find works by the likes of Michael Heizer and can listen to Louise Lawler’s installation Birdcalls.
And then, of course, there’s New York City – where no matter how you go about it, there’s always way too little time.
If you head to Times Square right before midnight, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Times Square Arts Midnight Moment digital art programme. There’s also the “secret” grates installation by Max Neuhaus.
For some much-needed park time, take the 35-minute soundwalk “Her Long Black Hair” in Central Park led by the sound artist Janet Cardiff.
Rainy day? Head to the Museum of Modern Art to see Christine Sun Kim’s 2019 work The Sound Of Temperature Rising. And if you’re leaving from Grand Central Terminal, make sure to hunt for the whispering gallery right outside the Oyster Bar & Restaurant.
Ryoji Ikeda, Test Pattern. Photo: Ka-Man Tse for Times Square Arts.
In Boston, the Mary Baker Eddy Library is home to the Mapparium, a three-story-high globe made of stained glass. Although most head to the landmark for a visual experience, the globe’s acoustic properties make for a playful day in a colourful whispering gallery.
And then there’s the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where the Sunday Afternoon Concert series is the longest-running museum music programme in the US.
Interior view of the Mapparium in Boston.
After that, head to North Adams for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (the biggest contemporary art museum in the country).
Multiple site-specific sound installations are on view, including works by Klaas Hubner and Andrew Schrock; Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger; Stephen Vitiello; Julianne Swartz; and Christina Kubisch.
In Cambridge, MIT’s annual performance series Sounding presents “unique artists who push the envelope of their respective genres, creating new evolving music for the 21st century”.
Fancy experiencing a whispering bench? In Philadelphia, a stone bench in West Fairmount Park allows for a “parabola effect” where whispering towards the wall allows you to communicate with your bench companion.
In Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol Museum’s Sound Series features groups and artists that “blur genres of contemporary independent music” – an initiative inspired by Warhol’s involvement in music.
When in Providence, make sure to download the Tidal Resonance app for access to sound journeys as you explore the waterways of the city.
RISD and Brown University both offer cutting-edge facilities and programmes in sound art and music composition, and their university gallery shows are bound to have something exciting on view.
The Hood Museum of Art in Hanover boasts over 500 works by artists like Nam June Paik and Yoko Ono, who were affiliated with the Fluxus movement, a key milestone in the history of sound art.
In Newark, the Otis elevator at Gallery Aferro houses the Elevator Music by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra. Then, catch a show at the Newark Symphony Hall, where the world-renowned music hall acoustics won’t fail to impress.
There’s always something to see, and hear, at Hamilton Township’s Grounds of Sculpture, which houses nearly 300 contemporary sculptures across 42 acres.
Engraving depicting Sybil's Cave, at Elysian Fields, Hoboken NJ, ca. 1840s. Artist and publication source unknown
The city of Hoboken isn’t just about the legacy of Frank Sinatra. Sybil’s Cave is the oldest manmade structure in the city and is frequently the setting for concerts and poetry readings.
Head to New Haven for Yale’s CCAM Sound Art Series. Focused on the sonic arts in its many forms, the programme has hosted guest artists like the experimental composer Alvin Lucier.
Getting ready to head to Maine? Consider listening in on “Sounds of the Maine Coast”, an audiovisual documentation project by David Bruggink with the goal of enabling “moments of vicarious travel, meditation, and immersion in this state's endlessly intriguing natural and manmade spaces”.
Cover: Exterior view of the Maverick Concert Hall, Credit: Dion Ogust/Wikimedia Commons
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- Sound-Sculpted Narrative: Artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller
- Christine Sun Kim's Ownership of Sound
- Exploring The Significance Of Sonic Architecture
- Bypassing Noise Code: 5 Pieces of Sound Art that Made it to Times Square
- 9 Lesser-Known Artworks that Encapsulate the Winter Spirit
Writer | Bana Bissat
Bana Bissat is a Milan-based writer who reports on sound art for Sound of Life. She has written for Flash Art, Lampoon, and Cultured. @banabissat