Audium

Sunday, February 10th, 2008 | Art

Dean Smith and I went to Audium Friday night. Audium is an immersive sound experience, performed every Friday and Saturday night by Stan Shaff. It’s been around in its current incarnation since 1975, and you can feel the influence of the popular culture of the time–from the biomorphic sculptures lining the entrance foyer, to the Logan’s Run-inspired architecture. Stan is a kind and dedicated soul who is passionate about sculpting space with sound. He uses the term “cutting edge” a lot. In the foyer, one hears a clock ticking away and birds chirping around the room. The experience of the birds hovers between an acoustic representation of them in space to an awareness of sound being manipulated between the speakers, not quite locating the sound in reality. From the foyer, one passes through a wooden-beamed arch and into a sound labyrinth. The sounds of gurgling water guided us through the labyrinth and into the dimly-lit main theater. The theater is like the inside of a flying saucer, vintage 1975, with a domed suspended ceiling. 169 speakers are embedded in the sloping walls and suspended floor, or hang from the ceiling. Stan conducts from a pulpit-like incision in the wall. Gradually the lights are dimmed, the water volume turned up, and suddenly it’s like being in the basement of Wendy Carlos’ beach house–moog synthesizer melodies, tweeting birds, the pounding surf, even a kitty cat… all these sounds give form to the darkened space and our sight-deprived imaginations.

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