Thursday, February 02, 2017

Mountain sounds?

My sacred mountains class went to the Rubin Museum of Art today to experience "Khandroma: Himalayan Wind," a sound installation on their "Sacred Spaces" floor. (This picture is of the soundproofing, sideways.) "Himalayan Wind" stitches together samples from 120 hours of wind gusts recorded in 200 high-elevation monasteries and villages in Mustang last year, and is intended to give visitors (who sit on beanbags surrounded by speakers) an experience of transport. It was my third visit, and I still don't know what to make of it. The first time I found it noisy; the second time meditative. This time, surrounded by the supine forms of my students, I wondered just what this collage of different gusts was supposed to convey - not one particular place but something more general, and, in the absence of any human sounds (except some drone added later), something non- or inhuman. Why is that worth doing - feeling like you can hear what no human ear has heard? Next week we'll see what the class made of it, as we get a different kind of sonic experience of mountains: the sound ethnographer who was part of our Kailash trip will bring some of the sounds he recorded, which include the sound of feet, of belled pack animals, of rushing streams, etc.

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