Category Archives: Music

Winter Trips (1/4): San Francisco’s Hidden Art Gems

Audium: A “Theatre of Sound-Sculptured Space”
Looking like a set from A Clockwork Orange, Audium is trapped in a different time–and I say this affectionately. Audium is an art/sound experience created by composer Stan Shaff and equipment designer Doug McEachern. It appeared in various forms until its permanent home at Bush and Franklin was established in 1975.
As an attendee you will enter room with over 100 speakers, and sit in concentric circles of chairs. The lights will dim to black and for over an hour you will experience music and sounds passing around you in all directions: percussive rhythms, Board-of-Canada-esque childrens’ voices, creepy organ music, and a host of other effects. All sounds are controlled through four channels on an analog system, and Stan Shaff to this day runs a show every Friday and Saturday night. He greets audience members after the show to answer questions. Clearly this man loves what he does and it’s hard to hold back a smile as he enthusiastically describes his baby.

Audium is not a highly edited composition piece. The space could be spruced up a bit. But as an experience, it’s a memorable one, and reminds you that sound-as-art has a short history.

Ruth Laskey, Twill Series (Jet Black), 2009; hand-dyed and handwoven linen; collection of Robert Hobbs; © Ruth Laskey; photo: DonTuttle

SFMOMA: Seca Art Award Exhibit
Clearly the SFMOMA is no hidden secret. But if you only have an hour or two there, walk past the Richard Serra drawings and Francesca Woodman photographs to see the 2010 SECA Award winners. SECA is associated with SFMOMA and has awarded Bay Area artists for the past 50 years. Ruth Laskey’s woven pieces were goose-bump inducing, Mauricio Ancalmo’s installation mesmerizing. Open until April 03, 2012.

Psychoacoustics in the NY Times

Sound, the Way the Brain Prefers to Hear It. Compelling. However, I’m disappointed that the article didn’t even briefly touch on the further difficulty of recreating the experience of listening to music in a live hall vs. your living room, outside of sound. The physical presence of people/chemistry of being in a group setting. The lighting. The architecture of the hall. The musical nuances. Seeing the conductor & the performers. Etc. Guess that would be a long article.