the worst seat in the house?

Jan 3.2012

The Sonic Arboretum

any seat. Ian Schneller and Andrew Bird’s Sonic Arboretum and associated live performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago are designed for ambulatory experience. The museum’s atrium is temporarily transformed into a dynamic soundscape through the installation of sculptural speakers. These reinventions of the phonograph, formed from compressed recycled newspaper and clothes dryer lint, project a series of richly layered compositions generated by Bird during his recent residency at the MCA.

Defying the traditional (unidirectional) concert experience, the audience is intended to wander through the space during the event, catching variations in sound as it is amplified to different degrees, bounces off the confines of the space, and in some cases, is expressed in pulses through the rotation of speakers. Bird fades into the background: on stage, he manipulates the established loop, but vocals and live instrumentals fall into line with the recorded composition, with the result being less a performance and more the invention of an environment.