06 Jan 2017 • Tracey Ingram
The Principals and Chris Watson question how sound influences our understanding of the world
How does what we hear define natural environments? It’s a question Brooklyn-based The Principals and sound recordist Chris Watson tackled with their Sound Journeys installation.
Presented in Detroit in September, Sound Journeys offered visitors various levels of interaction; they could passively, indirectly or directly control different audioscapes. The installation was divided into three distinct yet aurally overlapping spaces: Forest, Canyon and Sea. Questions posed to visitors reflected the environments: Is a forest defined by its trees or the birds we hear in its canopy? Is a canyon defined by its walls or the sound of your voice echoing off them? Is the sea defined by its waves or the sound they make as they crash onto the shore?
Birdsong and other audible elements from the wilderness guided guests through the Forest’s ‘trees’, while their own voices were amplified and echoed in the Canyon.
In the Sea, the rippling melodies of 72 inflatable mylar cells were linked to the individual sound frequencies of a resonant cymbal. Alongside a backing track – which incorporated the calls of whales and seals – visitors could strike the cymbal to suspend the sea’s music and movement.