During the next six weeks, members of the Tufts community and others are invited to help develop a one-of-a-kind interactive sonic art display and, in the process, explore the politics of hearing and seeing.
David Guss, an anthropology professor at Tufts, who is overseeing the project, is teaming with internationally renowned composer Bruce Odland—and scores of students—to create “Harmony in the Age of Noise,” a cross-disciplinary audio exhibition that uses the Tufts campus as a living psychoacoustic map.
Guss wants people to become more aware of their audio environment, to think about and question the elements that go into making it, and, in what he describes as a political act, take control.
“Our total cultural predisposition is to experience our environment through our eyes. We want to expand that to experience our environment through other senses, particularly hearing,” he explained.
“Urban spaces often create a dystopia, the opposite of utopia. We’re looking at the college campus as a type of utopic environment. It’s a place where people come here as strangers, but then become intimately involved for the rest of their lives. We’re looking at how that occurs, especially in terms of the built environment, which is why my course is called The Architecture of Utopia.”
To do that, over the next month he and Odland are creating what they call a sonic exploration of the Tufts environment. More than 100 students are participating in the project.
The finished exhibit will be located on the roof of Tisch Library between April 16 and May 15, housed in an open-sided dome designed by sculptor Mark McNamara and students enrolled this semester in Art, Activism, and Community: Visual Art for Social Change taught by Mindy Nierenberg, senior program manager at Tisch College.
The project will incorporate sounds from three different sources: a live feed from the Tufts campus, psychoacoustic maps created by students from various participating classes and sounds uploaded from a newly created website that can be played hourly and controlled by any visitor.
Guss describes himself as the project producer and Odland as the director. Odland, a sonic thinker, composer, and sound artist, is working with engineering students to construct a sound dial that will activate sonic maps created by other students.
“We want anybody who’s interested to be part of this enormous, collaborative piece during March and early April. The more participants, the more interesting it will be,” Guss said. “We also want to get our host communities involved, especially students and teachers from the public schools.”
The project is supported by the Office of the Provost, Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Education, Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Tisch College, the Departments of Anthropology, Music and Art History, the Tufts Art Gallery, the Experimental College, Tisch Library and University Information Technology.
In addition to Nierenberg’s class, other classes joining the project include: Electronic Instrument Music Design, taught by Paul Lehrman; History and Theory of Music and Technology, taught by Joseph Auner; Architecture of Utopia and the American College Campus, taught by David Guss; Art Since 1960, taught by Monica McTighe; and Global Cities, taught by Cathy Stanton.
For more about the project, visit the website at www.age-of-noise.net .
Originally published March 2008