Friday, August 04, 2017

Sound world

The Rubin Museum's "The World is Sound" exhibit makes the whole place into a wondrous sensorium. The central glass and steel staircase, whose six levels recalled the realms of rebirth to Donald Rubin, now resonates with sounds arising and sbsiding, coiling, pooling, ascending:

The centerpiece of the exhibition is Le Corps Sonore (Sound Body), an immersive, site-specific installation composed for the Rubin Museum’s iconic spiral staircase by the pioneering electronic sound artists Éliane Radigue, Laetitia Sonami, and Bob Bielecki. Ambient drone sounds inspired by Buddhist philosophy are “tuned” to the building, and will ascend and descend as visitors wind their way up the staircase. The subtlety and ephemerality of the sounds prepare the listener for understanding a core tenet of Buddhist philosophy, where music is a metaphor for change and impermanence.

The top floor, presided over by an exquisite statue of Milarepa listening, offers an immersive experience of the collective Om synthesizing the chanting of ten thousand visitors (yours truly included) earlier this year. Most captivating are Tibetan Buddhist objects whose lives involve sound which are brought to life - or at least to sound - by visitors' touching the wall next to them (for various sutras and mantras) or standing near them (for musical instruments used in ritual). And then there is this astonishing 19th century musical notation for a Kagyu propitiation ritual.

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