Be Hear Now
Photo by James BunoanLast year's Long Beach SoundWalk made a bleep-boop-bloop heard round the world, setting attendance tallies that trampled initial expectations and sending out echoes as far away as Europe and Asia. And this year, Dr. Frauke von der Horst—a member of FLOOD, the art collective responsible for organizing the SoundWalks—says participation has doubled, with more than 60 artists from as far away as New Zealand and Italy. Some of those are unable to visit in person, instead mailing their pieces to Long Beach with detailed assembly instructions. Said one Italian to von der Horst: "We should have something like this here."
"You just don't see this kind of thing happening," explains FLOOD member and sound artist Shea M. Gauer. "How many times can you walk around a neighborhood, especially downtown, where every place you look there's something?"
FLOOD members credit Kamran Assadi for the initial idea that developed into a one-night-only festival of sound art, with custom installations spilling out of a select number of East Village galleries into the sidewalks and streets between Atlantic and Elm avenues and Broadway and Ocean Boulevard. After a 2003 installation at the corner of Elm and First—when Gauer and Assadi arranged four identical rental cars and their cranked-up stereos into a piece called "Car-Tet"—Assadi wondered about the possibility of a large-scale simultaneous series of outdoor sound installations. Audio was the obvious choice, he explains now: "It's versatile and inexpensive to obtain—it works perfectly. This wouldn't have worked for sculpture or painting or any other medium."
Even the FLOOD members aren't sure exactly what they'll be hearing Saturday night: artists have had months to select a location and customize a piece, deploying it only on the day of the SoundWalk. It makes everything unexpected: walking down Broadway and hearing a baby bird in a tree, you might look up and see instead Christmas ornaments holding tiny speakers, a perfect conceptual rhyme. Artist/musician Glenn Bach remembers his own favorite piece from last year's debut SoundWalk (though he apologizes for not remembering the responsible artists): a giant industrial spring, dotted with microphones that responded to touch with a solemn sort of foghorn boom. It was just some piece of "industrial junk," he says, "that had this magical sound attached to it—so people get that sort of a-ha! moment, to recognize sound as something!"
That's what von der Horst once called "bringing surprise to the environment," or what artist Steve Roden writes about as "active listening": simply a way to reveal a new texture in a familiar environment, with installations that anyone—"from babies to the elderly," says Gauer—can instinctively understand. There's a happy sort of jungle feel to the SoundWalk, with the wild sounds of the East Village—traffic, ocean breeze, diesel trains across the 710—rustling in the same bushes as the tame sounds the artists install. (Well, if they are tame: locals Everlovely Lightningheart report only that they'll be taking a page from a Burroughs tape-recorder experiment.)
"I ran into one person during the SoundWalk last year who'd just come out of the barbershop, attracted by the sound from one piece," says von der Horst. "He stayed for the show and went and got a map to follow to all the pieces—he was absolutely excited about it."
SOUNDWALK 2005 IN LONG BEACH'S EAST VILLAGE BETWEEN ATLANTIC AND ELM AVES. AND BROADWAY AND OCEAN BLVD.; WWW.SOUNDWALK.ORG. OPENING RECEPTION AT KOO'S, 540 E. BROADWAY, LONG BEACH. SAT., 5-6 P.M.; CLOSING RECEPTION AT BASEMENT LOUNGE, 149 LINDEN AVE., STE. B-100, LONG BEACH. SAT., 10 P.M. FREE. MAPS AND CATALOGS AVAILABLE AT OPEN, 136 LINDEN AVE., LONG BEACH, AND KOO'S.
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