Now in its eighth year, the annual SoundWalk will again take to the streets of Downtown Long Beach next Saturday for an evening of experimental sound art. Past years have featured synchronized symphonies, electronic sculptures and impromptu performances among a wide range of work that's hard to pin down as just noise or music. In a world that's inundated with white noise and headphones, the annual event organized by local artist group FLOOD is not a bad way to heighten your senses and experience your surroundings anew.
Artist Marco Schindelmann first participated in SoundWalk 2005 and later joined FLOOD to become a co-curator and co-producer. He's confident this year's event, which features 35 international and local artists, will have plenty to offer repeat attendees, Long Beach locals and unseasoned newcomers.
OC Weekly:What do you do and what is your role in the SoundWalk?
Marco Schindelmann: I'm a co-producer/co-curator of SoundWalk and an artist/professor over at the University of Redlands. I'm Director of University Opera at the School of Music. My history with the event has been interesting because I first chanced upon SoundWalk 2004 as a spectator. In 2005, I was a participating artist, and in 2006, I joined FLOOD.
How has the event changed over eight years?
When SoundWalk first started, sound art within the Long Beach art scene was not well-known. You had a lot of artists who weren't necessarily sound artists but were interested in pursuing this art form. As a result, you had a lot of sound sculpture, which is one aspect of sound art. Over the years, artists have started doing research and understanding that sound art is actually a multifaceted art form where you have visual, aural and performative aspects. It's a hybrid art form. The works have become much more conceptually and technologically sophisticated. We've moved from sound sculptures to artworks that deal with sound spatiality and relationships between sound and the other senses.
How is the city environment important to the experience of sound art?
Sound art is not just taking and manipulating sound, but also recontextualizing it. You take a sound that is common to a certain environment and transport it elsewhere. When you move on within that environment, you become much more aware of sound. As a result, people will frequently hear sounds that have always been there, but because their hearing is now heightened, they'll suddenly stop and listen to something as either art or as part of the environment. They're really forced to confront the environment in new ways.
For example, we've had people stop in front of an electrical transformer and start listening to it while looking on the map and wondering if it is an example of sound art, whereas before, they would simply walk past that object. From that point on, especially if they're residents of the neighborhood, they'll walk past that transformer and be aware of or even appreciate that sound. Or you may take something that sounds like traffic and put it in a very different place like a sewer. When I talk about traffic, I mean traffic you hear from five or six stories up. When you put it in a sewer, it sounds like rolling waves. What happens as a result is that people start listening to traffic differently. If they're living in a skyscraper, they hear that traffic as the sound of waves. It's no longer a mechanical sound and much more an atmospheric or ambient sound.
This event sounds very different from a typical art exhibit of paintings and sculptures.
Oh, yeah, this is very different. I remember when I was at that first event, people were a little timid because they didn't know how to interact or respond to the artwork because it was so foreign to them. Because people have been revisiting the event over the years, they're now actively involved and responding with complete openness to the art form. It doesn't put people off in the way that some experimental art exhibits might.
Which works are you most looking forward to?
It's difficult to choose because I don't necessarily want to privilege one artist over another. There are some artists who are presenting more than one work because we particularly liked what they had to offer. For example, Alex Braidwood, who is showing a very crafted and objected-oriented type of work. We thought that presenting all three works in his proposal would actually be more effective than just choosing one work. Then you have something completely different like the Southern California Soundscape Ensemble, which will take field recordings to recontextualize and juxtapose them. You also have artists who are highly poetic, like Impossible Moon. And other artists who are very conceptual, like Phillip Stearns. It's really heard to tell because there are so many different things going on and you have such a wide range of artwork.
SoundWalk 2011 takes place between 4th St., Linden Ave., 1st St. and Elm Ave. in Long Beach's East Village. Sat., Oct. 1, 5 p.m. Free.