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Caramoor Presents Site-Specific Al Fresco Sound Art In the Garden of Sonic Delights (June 7–Nov 1)

Caramoor broke new ground last summer with In the Garden of Sonic Delights, an al fresco exhibition of newly commissioned, site-specific sound art, curated by artistic director Stephan Moore. Now, back by popular demand, June 7 saw the return of eight of the commissioned sound artworks: the creations of Ranjit Bhatnagar, Bob Bielecki, Betsey Biggs, Annea Lockwood, Scott Smallwood, Suzanne Thorpe, Trimpin, Stephen Vitiello, and Moore himself. Exploring different aspects of the interface between nature, acoustics, history, and architecture, this year’s art-infused soundscape is set outdoors in the picturesque Italianate gardens of Caramoor’s historic 90-acre estate, open to visitors, free of charge, throughout the summer and fall. As Culturebot advises, “Head up to Westchester for In the Garden of Sonic Delights. It’s closer than you think and really far out.

A fast-emerging art form, sonic art has come into its own over the past decade. Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “Sound art, if one accepts the label, is having a moment.” As for Caramoor’s contribution to the genre, Culturebot writes: “I can think of no better introduction to the profundity and possibility of the medium than this exhibit.”

Curator and artistic director Stephan Moore says of this year’s exhibition, “It turns out that the opportunity to show these works again is also a rare chance to see the creative process in action.  Each artist has made adjustments to their work based on their observations and experiences from last year. In the Garden on Sonic Delights in 2015 is an exciting upgrade to an already inspiring exhibition.”

As Caramoor CEO Jeff Haydon commented: “We are thrilled to continue Caramoor’s groundbreaking In the Garden of Sonic Delights exhibition this summer.  Each piece explores the world of sound and Caramoor’s lush grounds in new ways.  Even for those who experienced it last year, there will be some new surprises and it is a great opportunity to bring friends to share the experience with them.”

Additional sonic artwork from the 2014 exhibit, which spanned multiple locations across Westchester, may be revisited this summer at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Caramoor’s partner organization in Tarrytown, NY.

About the sound artworks

Stone Song
Internationally renowned Brooklyn-based sound artist Ranjit Bhatnagar worked with stone masons to design Stone Song. As he explains,

“The piece is a sculpture made using the dry-stone walling technique, where the stones are shaped by masons and piled up without using any cement or mortar to hold them together. Between the stones of the sculpture, I’m putting a bunch of pressure sensors … feeding into a drone music synthesizer, which is going to create a soundscape that’s just continually playing here at these stones. And the idea is that over the months of the exhibition, as things slowly shift and move around, the drone sounds will change.”

Previously installed at the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase, a 2014 partner, Stone Song makes its Caramoor debut this summer. For more information, including video clips of Stone Song and Bhatnagar, click here.

Sunken Gardens
Betsey Biggs is a composer and interdisciplinary artist whose work has been described as “psychologically complex, exposing how we orient ourselves with our ears” (New Yorker). In her performative audio installation Sunken Gardens, visitors wear headphones equipped with induction loops, the technology used in hearing aids. These add a new layer of sound – a sonic underwater world full of bubbling noises, creaky technology, sonar sounds, oddly vibrating chords, surprising fragments of text, and more – to the existing landscape. Biggs says: “It’s essentially a large piece of music that you explore spatially rather than temporally, so as people walk through physical space, they’ll be walking through various parts of this piece of music.” For more information, including video clips of Sunken Gardens and Biggs, click here.

Wild Energy
Henry Cowell Award-winner Annea Lockwood is known for her explorations of natural acoustic sounds and environments. Her association with Bob Bielecki, who numbers John Cage, La Monte Young, and Laurie Anderson among his past collaborators, dates from the 1980s. In Wild Energy, they give voice to natural sounds beyond the scope of human hearing: sounds that range from solar oscillations, volcanic tremors, electromagnetic waves, and hydrothermal vents to the song of the sei whale, bats’ echolocation calls, and acoustic emissions of the scots pine tree. Lockwood explains:

“These sounds have been transposed into the hearing range so you can finally absorb them consciously. … We’re hoping people will come and settle into one of the hammocks [provided] for a little while, and become immersed in this bath of sound that they wouldn’t normally be able to hear.”

For more information, including recordings and video clips of Wild Energy, Lockwood and Bielecki, and more, click here.

Sound artist and Garden of Sonic Delights curator and artistic director Stephan Moore has been working at the forefront of the contemporary experimental audio world for the past 15 years. His Diacousticon features eight robotically controlled slide whistles with mechanical music boxes attached, all distributed around the circular fountain at the center of Caramoor’s Sense Circle, a specially designed sensory garden for the blind. Dubbed “a playful commentary on the surveillance state” (New York Times), Diacousticon is capable of both listening to its surroundings and generating sonic responses to what it hears. The slide whistles “make this very sweet hollow kind of flutey sound when they blow,” Moore explains. “As you come in, maybe you are talking with a friend or you’re whistling a tune, or there’s a lawnmower going or a plane passing overhead, or birds making sounds, and the piece is listening to the environment and it’s responding to it.” For more information, including video clips of Diacousticon and Moore, click here.

Coronium 3500 (Lucie’s Halo)
Sound artist, composer, and sound performer Scott Smallwood creates works inspired by discovered textures and forms, through listening, field recording, and sonic improvisation. His Coronium 3500 (Lucie’s Halo) is a site-specific sound installation, featuring twelve solar-powered sounding devices arranged in a circle. Smallwood says:

“It’s a solar-powered piece that operates off of raw solar energy, so there’s no buffering, there’s no batteries involved storing the energy, it’s completely dependent on whatever environmental conditions are present. What that means is that some of the pieces will change throughout the day.”

As for the work’s subtitle, this pays tribute to Caramoor co-founder Lucie Rosen, whose curly blond hair was once described in the New York Evening Journal as a “wide halo around her delicate and ethereal face.” For more information, including video clips of Coronium 3500 (Lucie’s Halo) and Smallwood, click here.

Listening Is As Listening Does
Suzanne Thorpe is a flutist and composer whose site-specific sound pieces have been seen on both sides of the Atlantic. Listening Is As Listening Does was inspired by the bats that used to live in Caramoor’s Spanish Courtyard, before succumbing to white-nose syndrome. By simulating the principles of echolocation, the listening system by which bats navigate, Thorpe’s piece projects sounds and listens for the echoed responses, emerging as information from the echoes. “I’m hoping that the experience of enacting with the work itself and how the piece functions with that concept will enable people to experience a deeper relationship with the act of listening,” she says. For more information, including video clips of Listening Is As Listening Does and Thorpe, click here.

The Pianohouse
The recipient of honors that include a Guggenheim fellowship and a MacArthur “genius” grant, German-born sound artist Trimpin works with natural elements like water, air, light, and fire, reconfigured in new and unusual applications. A child-sized house formed of six piano frames, The Pianohouse is a site-specific interactive installation, activated by pressing the house’s doorbell. This triggers kinetic electro-mechanical actuators that strike, bow, pluck, or scratch the piano strings, creating predominantly percussive music. Over time, through heat, rain, and other environmental conditions, the tuning will change and the whole structure will gradually deteriorate. “Eventually,” Trimpin predicts, “it will be total silence, and then we are going back to John Cage’s philosophy that even silence is sound.” For more information, including video clips of The Pianohouse and Trimpin, click here.

You Are The Sweet Spot
Electronic musician and media artist Stephen Vitiello’s sound installations have been presented internationally and are in the collections of museums including the Museum of Modern Art, Lyon’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His partnership with innovative sound artist Bob Bielecki dates back more than 20 years. Their site-specific sound piece You Are The Sweet Spot was created for the remarkable acoustics of Caramoor’s Italian Pavilion. “It has incredible resonances,” Bielecki says. “It just makes you want to sing or explore it.” “We called the piece You Are The Sweet Spot because with a lot of surround-sound pieces, you have to be in the sweet spot,” Vitiello adds, whereas “in this piece as you walk, the sound follows you.” For more information, including video clips of You Are The Sweet Spot and of Vitiello and Bielecki, click here.

More information is available at, and high-resolution photos are provided here.

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About Caramoor
Caramoor is a performing arts center located on a unique 90-acre setting of Italianate architecture and gardens in Westchester County, NY. It enriches the lives of its audiences through innovative and diverse musical performances of the highest quality. Its mission also includes mentoring young professional musicians and providing educational programs for young children centered on music. Audiences are invited to come early to explore the beautiful grounds, tour the historic Rosen House, and, on special Sundays, enjoy a delicious Afternoon Tea or unwind with a pre-concert picnic, and discover beautiful music in the relaxed settings of the Venetian Theater, Spanish Courtyard, Music Room of the Rosen House, and the magnificent gardens. Summer concerts take place in two outdoor theaters: the 1,508-seat, acoustically superb Venetian Theater and the more intimate, romantic 470-seat Spanish Courtyard. In the fall and winter all concerts are presented in the magnificent Music Room in the Rosen House. Caramoor’s gardens, also used for concerts and the Garden of Sonic Delights, are well worth the visit and include nine unique perennial gardens. Among them are a Sense Circle for the visually impaired, the Sunken Garden, a Butterfly Garden, the Tapestry Hedge, and the Iris and Peony Garden.

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All concerts  made possible, in part, by ArtsWestchester with funds from the Westchester County Government.



All concerts made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature

© 21C Media Group, June 2015

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