Preview :: The Listening Museum
June 13th 2013
For years, religious leaders have been struggling to keep their followers attending a place of worship week after week, but it looks like the folks behind The Listening Museum finally have the answer. They’re providing an interactive, real-life surround sound experience in Paddington Uniting Church. We’re talking performance installations involving ping pong balls and kinetic sound-generating objects. Lawd yes.
You can thank Ensemble Offspring and Clocked Out for putting together this unearthly extravaganza. They’ve made it possible to listen to music written for four swinging microphones and feedback, and then experience live surround sound clarinets on the same night. Have a sense of adventure. You’re bound to discover something strange and wonderful; something you’ve never heard before.
The Flog’s Pat Dempsey spoke to clarinetist Jason Noble who’ll be performing on the night. He tells us more about why the phenomena of listening is so very worth exploring.
Pat Dempsey (Flog): A lot of the installations at the Listening Museum seem to challenge the everyday conception of what music is. What do you think is the defining difference between music and noise?
Jason Noble: I don’t think this can be defined. Some music can sound like noise to me (though that is sometimes the artist’s intention), while some incidental noises can have a rhythmic or melodic beauty. I think both these areas could be grouped under “sound”.
P: Do you think music has to be intentional?
J: No, but that may depend on the listener. John Cage was certainly a pioneer in this field, writing works where events happen as opposed to be performed with intention.
P: How much do you think the performance space effects the music being performed in it?
J: Greatly. A good acoustic can allow the listener to hear a lot of detail in a sound. In this program, the space is imperative in that the listener may perceive sounds differently from where they are standing or listening. Another work requires the performers to walk around and engage with the space, so the nature of the space is very important.
P: What would you like audiences to take away from the interactive pieces in the exhibition?
J: I would like them to engage with each of the performances/installations. Some may be enjoyable, others intriguing, or meditative, and others may have some difficult aspects – but one can always walk away.
P: Do you think that audiences at musical performances ought to be silent all the time – or even ever?
J: Some events warrant this sort of listening, while at others, sounds made by the audience may become part of the event. In this event, there is a mix between the two.
P: Do you think extremely minimal musical experimentation can be powerful? If so, why? What is extremely minimal musical experimentation?
J: Certainly a good question. I think it can be effective , but the listener may need to lose some other musical parameters.
P: Music can be so loud that it hurts. Why do you think people are so often drawn to ear-drum busting music?
J: I think it is all-encompassing and blots out a lot. Not my preference , I have to say, as I do need my ears for my career.
P: Is there a significance to the fact the the Listening Museum is set in a church?
J: In choosing the venue, there initially wasn’t a connection. It was important we had a space with a number of rooms, and of course the Paddington Uniting Church has a rich history in hosting musical events. Having said this, there will be a performance by Steffan Ianigro featuring ringing bells, which certainly has religious connotations.
P: What do you hope people hear at the Listening Museum?
J: I teach ear training at the Conservatorium of Music, and I have come to realise there is certainly an infinite numbers of ways to approach listening. I hope there will be some serenity, drama, tranquility, humour, I also hope people hear a fresh approach to music making, one that may make them reflect on what music is.