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Caramoor Marks Official Opening of Grounds and Sonic Innovations Sound Art Exhibition with Free “Soundscapes” Event (June 4)

(May 2023)—Caramoor opens its idyllic grounds for the 2023 summer season with “Soundscapes,” a free afternoon of events on June 4 at 12pm that features live performances along with this season’s Sonic Innovations sound art exhibition, with the sound artists on hand to interact with the public. Performers include percussionist Jonny Allen – a member of Sandbox Percussion – who performs Iannis Xenakis’s multi-percussion piece Rebonds as well as excerpts from Tom Johnson’s Nine Bells. Pianist Conor Hanick will “prepare” a grand piano by inserting bolts, screws, bits of rubber, and other items between the strings for a performance of John Cage’s complete Sonatas and Interludes. Thereminist Dorit Chrysler will perform and give workshops on the world’s oldest electronic instrument, in recognition of Caramoor co-founder Lucie Bigelow Rosen, an important patron and one of the earliest practitioners of the theremin.

The “Soundscapes” event marks the opening of Caramoor’s renowned Sonic Innovations sound art installation, with nine sound art pieces including a new work, Dyning in the Dovecote by Liz Phillips, and returning works by Mendi + Keith Obadike, Trimpin, Annea Lockwood & Bob Bielecki (with a second returning piece by Lockwood alone), Ranjit Bhatnagar, Taylor Deupree, and Walter Kitundu (see below for more details about this season’s works and artists). Conceived and curated by Chicago-based sound artist Stephan Moore, Sonic Innovations expands Caramoor’s programming with an annual exhibition of sound art from artists working with sonic materials outside the traditions of concert music. Sound art allows each artist to draw inspiration from their chosen location and its unique characteristics – acoustic, historic, architectural, or natural – and has been an integral part of Caramoor’s world-class programming since the groundbreaking exhibition In the Garden of Sonic Delights in 2014, which won Arts Westchester’s Innovation Award.

Upcoming 2023 Caramoor Summer Season

Highlights of Caramoor’s 2023 summer season include a performance by stellar vocalist Audra McDonald, with Orchestra of St. Luke’s (OSL) led by Andy Einhorn (June 17); the Boston Early Music Festival production of Francesca Caccini’s Alcina (June 25); OSL concerts featuring pianist Hélène Grimaud (July 16) and cellist Alisa Weilerstein (Aug 6); Sandbox Percussion performing Andy Akiho’s Seven Pillars (June 30); the New York premiere of Ted Hearne’s FARMING performed by The Crossing (July 9); Grammy Award-winning Malian vocalist Oumou Sangaré (July 15); The Knights and Pekka Kuusisto giving the New York premiere of Nico Muhly’s violin concerto Shrink (July 28); Handel’s Acis and Galatea with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (July 23); cutting-edge string quartet Brooklyn Rider giving the NY premiere of Andreia Pinto Correia’s Aere senza stelle (June 23); bass-baritone Davóne Tines with pianist John Bitoy (July 13); and pianist Conrad Tao in a duo program with tap dancer Caleb Teicher (July 20). Other highlights include the world premiere of a string quartet by Derrick Skye, commissioned by Caramoor for the Ivalas Quartet (June 29); Baroque supergroup Ruckus (July 7); and pianist Garrick Ohlsson performing an all-Chopin program (July 30). Ted Sperling hosts an evening of Harold Arlen sung by Broadway stars Julie Benko, Aisha de Haas, Mikaela Bennett, and Nicholas Ward (July 8); the annual Jazz Festival is headlined by vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant (July 22); the American Roots Music Festival features Grammy and Tony-nominated country singer/songwriter Brandy Clark as headliner (June 24); Mary Chapin Carpenter performs along with her full band (Aug 5).

Sonic Innovations 2023

Liz Phillips: Dyning in the Dovecote (2023)

Dyning in the Dovecote is an interactive sound installation stirred into subtle action by the presence and activity of its audience, as well as sunlight and wind. The sounds of water, insects, dove calls and bird wings flicker and fly around the dovecote in Caramoor’s sense circle, while underwater sound transducers create ripple patterns on the surface of the fountain. Four lace-like metal forms hang from the dovecote’s roof, cast from local tree barks, and shaped as the impression of a face from different angles. These are wired to radiate capacitance fields, or ether waves, like a theremin – recalling Caramoor and Lucie Rosen’s place in the history of music technology.

Liz Phillips is a pioneering figure in the development of interactive and sound installation art. She creates responsive environments sensing wind, plants, fish, audience, dance, water, and food. Audio and visual art forms combine with new technologies to create elastic time-space constructs. Sound is often the primary descriptive material.

Mendi + Keith Obadike: Timbre and Frequency (2022)

Frequency and Timbre are from a larger series of projects using sound, text, and, sculpture that the artists call “tonotypes.” Conceived to be separate but complementary, like the A and B side of a record, the two works hint at an alternate way of listening, an opportunity to perceive something beyond the surface. Timbre is inspired by a passage from Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye about children overhearing and attempting to interpret the speech of adults; the sculpture’s vocabulary responds to the passage with a combination of natural, vocal, and synthesized sounds. Frequency is also inspired by African-American literature, specifically a now canonical section from Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel, The Invisible Man, in which the protagonist claims to speak for others on a frequency not heard by all. A musician and audiophile, Ellison’s experience building audio systems may have inspired this idea, which has now been taken up in political and historical studies as “politics on the lower frequencies,” referring to unrecorded histories and untracked political discourse.

Mendi + Keith Obadike make music, art and literature. Keith received a BA in Art from North Carolina Central University and an MFA in Sound Design from Yale University. He is a professor in the College of Arts and Communication at William Paterson University and serves as a digital media editor at Obsidian. Mendi received a BA in English from Spelman College and a PhD in Literature from Duke University. After working as a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University, she became a poetry editor at Fence magazine and is currently an associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. Mendi and Keith also serve as art advisors to the Times Square Alliance and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics.

Trimpin: in“C” (2021)

MacArthur Fellow Trimpin’s in“C” is a site-specific sound-sculpture created for Caramoor’s 75th anniversary and inspired by its acoustical environment: the birds singing, the wind in the trees, and the blissful absence of street noise. It takes the form of a 16-foot-high double-letter C located in the entry plaza, welcoming guests as they arrive and inviting them to interact through both a motion sensor and push-buttons. The push-buttons activate the structure’s chimes to play pre-composed short pieces, each one to two minutes long; in addition to Trimpin’s own music, these include works by Caramoor-commissioned composers Christopher Cerrone, Anna Clyne, Missy Mazzoli, and Nico Muhly, and as Caramoor continues to work with composers the library of pieces will grow. When in“C” is in its education mode, a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboard enables visitors to make their own chime music, as the chimes respond to the strikes on the keyboard.

Trimpin is an internationally acclaimed composer, musician, visual artist, and inventor, engaged in commissions and exhibitions at venues around the world. “My work is an ongoing exploration of the concepts of sound, vision, and movement,” he says, “experimenting with combinations that will introduce our senses of perception to a totally new experience.” A MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award recipient and a Guggenheim Fellow, Trimpin has been commissioned by Lincoln Center, San Francisco’s Exploratorium, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and Seattle Symphony, among others.

Annea Lockwood & Bob Bielecki: Wild Energy (2014)

Annea Lockwood and Bob Bielecki’s Wild Energy takes visitors on a fantastical tour of sounds that normally occur outside the range of human hearing, beginning with solar oscillations recorded by the SOHO spacecraft, sped up 42,000 times, and ending with ultrasound recorded from the interior of a Scots pine tree, slowed down ten times. As the creators describe the piece:

Wild Energy gives access to the inaudible – vibrations in the ultra and infra ranges emanating from sources which affect us fundamentally, but which are beyond our audio perception, many of which are creating our planet’s environment: the sun, the troposphere and ionosphere, the earth’s crust and core, the oxygen-generating trees. … A generating image for the piece is of Caramoor’s trees funneling these energies into the oxygen we breathe as we walk near them or lie under them.”

Born in New Zealand in 1939 and living in the US since 1973, Annea Lockwood is known for her explorations of the rich world of natural acoustic sounds and environments, in works ranging from sound art and installations, through text-sound and performance art, to concert music (see also under Piano Garden below). Bob Bielecki has worked in the media arts field for more than forty years, creating unique instruments and sound designs for installation and performance. He is known for his innovative use of technology to develop distinctive electronic effects and environments and is engaged in ongoing research in psychoacoustics, sound localization, and 3-D audio.

Ranjit Bhatnagar: Stone Song (2014)

Stone Song, a meditation on time and change that was originally hosted by the Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College, SUNY, and moved to Caramoor in 2015, was designed in collaboration with Hilary Martin, Akira Inman and Evan Oxland. Bhatnagar says:

“When I look at an old stone wall, I think about how the seemingly solid form has shifted and settled over time, through weathering and the erosion and compression of the soil. In order to explore this process through sound, Stone Song is laced with pressure sensors and strain gauges, and sensors for humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure. All this information feeds into a drone synthesizer, whose fundamental tones shift slowly over the months as the stones settle. Daily weather and seasonal changes will produce smaller, shorter-term changes in the stones’ song, as will the weight of visitors who stop to sit on it and listen.”

Ranjit Bhatnagar discovered sound art around age 14, listening to weird late-night programs on KPFA. He now works with interactive and sound installations, with scanner photography, and with internet-based collaborative art. Recent works have been exhibited at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, the Parc d’aventures scientifiques in Belgium, Flux Factory in Queens, in the Artbots series at Eyebeam Atelier and the Pratt Institute in New York, and the Mermaid Show at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center in Brooklyn.

Taylor Deupree: t(ch)ime (2017)

t(ch)ime is a site-specific sound installation on a quiet path under the trees on Caramoor’s grounds, an otherworldly addition to a familiar environment. The sole sound source of the piece is a collection of bell chimes that have been manipulated through increasing layers of digital processing, so that the sound evolves as one walks down the path. Thus, the human element – that is to say, the physical experience of hearing chimes activated by wind in natural surroundings – is combined with a gentle digital manipulation that calls attention to the acoustic properties of the materials from which the chimes are made. The effect is a small temporal oasis of fragile and reflective sound, in which hearing becomes the listener’s most heightened sense.

Taylor Deupree is an accomplished sound artist whose recordings, rich with abstract atmospherics, have appeared on numerous record labels, as well as in site-specific installations at such institutions as the ICC (Tokyo, Japan) and the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (Yamaguchi, Japan). His music today emphasizes a hybrid of natural sounds and technological mediation. It’s marked by a deep attention to stillness, to an almost desperate near-silence.

Walter Kitundu: Nafasi Yako Ni Ya Kijani (Your Place is Green) (2017)

Nafasi Yako Ni Ya Kijani (Your Place is Green) centers on a handmade white oak rocking chair that activates speakers suspended in nearby trees, with sounds that combine composed works, field recordings, birdsong, and conversation. The piece is a meditation on absence, specifically that of the artist’s late parents. Kitundu’s mother was an artist and deeply supportive of his creative endeavors, and the bird recordings all come from the region in Tanzania where his late father grew up. Many of the birdsongs are similar to Caramoor’s resident birds, and the juxtaposition is intentional: the piece celebrates both what is left behind and what is carried forward when loved ones are no longer present. Nafasi Yako Ni Ya Kijani (Your Place is Green) was originally commissioned by Montalvo Arts Center.

Walter Kitundu creates kinetic sculptures and sonic installations, develops public works, builds (and performs on) extraordinary musical instruments, while studying and documenting the natural world. He is the inventor of a family of Phonoharps, multi-stringed instruments made from record players that rely on the turntable’s sensitivity to vibration. Kitundu has created hand-built record players driven by the wind and rain, fire and earthquakes, birds, light, and the force of ocean waves. In 2008 he received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of his work and creative potential.

Annea Lockwood: Piano Garden (1969-70; 2021)

Piano Garden is one of four installations in a series entitled Piano Transplants. In each piece in the series, Annea Lockwood positions a piano beyond repair in the natural world and invites the elements to consume it. Audiences are welcome and encouraged to play the piano until environmental forces make it dangerous or impossible to do so. The score for Piano Garden reads: “Dig a sloping trench and slip an upright piano in sideways so that it is half interred. A small grand piano may be set down amongst bushes etc. Plant fast growing trees and creepers around the pianos. Do not protect against weather and leave the pianos there forever.” This installation of Piano Garden is presented in collaboration with ISSUE Project Room, which honored the artist in 2021 with a global staging of Piano Transplants.

Annea Lockwood is known for her explorations of the rich world of natural acoustic sounds and environments. Her sound installation A Sound Map of the Danube has been presented in Germany, Austria, and the U.S. Other recent projects include Ceci n’est pas un piano, for piano, video, and electronics, commissioned by Jennifer Hymer; Jitterbug, commissioned by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, a six-channel soundscape with two improvising musicians; and In Our Name, a collaboration with Thomas Buckner based on poems by prisoners in Guantánamo. Her music has been issued on CD and online on the Lovely Music, Ambitus, EM, XI, Rattle, Lorelt, and Pogus labels.

Getting to Caramoor

Getting to Caramoor is simple by car or public transportation. All parking is free and close to the performance areas. Handicapped parking is also free and readily available. By car from New York City, take the Henry Hudson Parkway north to the Saw Mill River Parkway north to I-684 north to Exit 6. Go east on Route 35 to the traffic light (0.3 miles). Turn right onto Route 22 south, and travel 1.9 miles to the junction of Girdle Ridge Road where there is a green Caramoor sign. At the junction, veer left and make a quick right onto Girdle Ridge Road. Continue on Girdle Ridge Road 0.5 miles to the Caramoor gates on the right. Approximate drive time is one hour. By train from Grand Central Station, take the Harlem Division Line of the Metro-North Railroad heading to Southeast, and exit at Katonah. Caramoor is a 3.5-mile drive from the Katonah station.

A FREE shuttle from Metro North’s Katonah station to and from Caramoor runs before and after every afternoon and evening concert, beginning June 4 for the “Soundscapes” event.

About Caramoor

Caramoor is a cultural arts destination located on a unique 80-plus-acre estate with Italianate architecture and gardens in Northern Westchester County, NY. Its beautiful grounds include the historic Rosen House, a stunning mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides enriching the lives of its audiences through innovative and diverse musical performances of the highest quality, Caramoor mentors young professional musicians and provides music-centered educational programs for young children.

Click here to download high-resolution photos, and here to download Caramoor’s summer brochure.

“Soundscapes” Schedule
Sunday, June 4
Caramoor Grounds
Jonny Allen, percussion
Dorit Chrysler, theremin
Conor Hanick, piano

Spanish Courtyard
Conor Hanick prepares piano
Friends Field
Friends Field
Dorit Chrysler: Theremin demonstration & performance
Meet the sound artists near their respective works
Spanish Courtyard
John CAGE: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (Part 1)
1:30pm – 3:30pm
Garden Courtyard
Theremin Workshop
Friends Field
Iannis XENAKIS: Rebonds A
Spanish Courtyard
John CAGE: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (Part 2)
Near In”C”
Tom JOHNSON: First Bell
Friends Field
Theremin performance
Meet the sound artists near their respective works
Spanish Courtyard
John CAGE: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (Part 3)
Near In”C”
Tom JOHNSON: Second Bell
Spanish Courtyard
John CAGE: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (Part 4)
Friends Field
Iannis XENAKIS: Rebonds B

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Caramoor is proud to be a grantee of ArtsWestchester with funding made possible by Westchester County government with the support of County Executive George Latimer.

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The Summer Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

© 21C Media Group, May 2023


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