A Path Unfolding
A site-responsive sonic art installation that transforms a dirt trail adjacent to a dried up ditch into an aurally lush path to promote wellness and walking meditation.
April 2020, the flow of people on this path has increased as the locals grow listless of containment, of social distancing measures in response to the Corona virus. A Path Unfolding uses the calming tones of bells and singing bowls and various forms of synthesis to transform a 50-foot stretch of this dirt path into a meditative space. The project builds on the practice of “walking meditation” and uses the aforementioned tones along with such sounds as waves on the shore, wind in the trees, the trickling of a stream, or a rain’s fluctuating rhythms. These nature sounds are purposefully incongruent with the dry canal and serves to bring passerby into the moment, to distance them from their worries by presenting something unusual in the present.
Programmed for Bela in PureData, based on code by Manuel Eisl
This installation was built for a site-responsive sonic art class taught by Dr. Lauren Hayes at ASU. Dr. Hayes presented an ecclectic mix of theory and influential artworks concerning site-specificity. The conception of this piece has roots in a variety of readings and artworks that I encountered in class.
One of the these was an installation by Max Neuhaus entitled Times Square, in which a loudspeaker produces "a deep resonating drone, like a ventilation hum" (LaBelle 2006) from beneath the metal grates of the pedestrian path in Times Square. The work is not labelled anywhere and produces a rich, harmonic tone that fuses with the ambient energy of the city. I walked over this piece countless times while living in NY, and I remember that hum; I had just assumed that it was the characteristic life-pulse of the city.
That I may have experienced this piece, and have been affected subtly without conscious intrusion, is a concept that I return to time and time again. In the first chapter of Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Barry Blesser describes how “aural architecture can also influence our moods and association. Although we may not be consciously aware that aural architecture is itself a sensory stimulus, we react to it” (2009).
The volume of people perambulating outside my window has increased. I watch them take deep breaths to ward off the restlessness of isolation. A Path Unfolding is a direct response to this increase in foot traffic. It is far from the subtle permeation of Max Neuhaus’ Times Square, but it is an attempt to affect a mood, to bring a sense of calm in difficult times.
Blesser, B. and Salter, L.R., (2009). Spaces speak, are you listening?: experiencing aural architecture. MIT press.
Vancouver Chapter 1 (p1 - 10).
LaBelle, Brandon. (2006). Tuning space: Max Neuhaus and site-specific sound. In Background Noise, Perspectives on
Sound Art, pp. 154–66. New York: Continuum, 2006.