Penetrating the senses

BY: SOFIA YASSINE

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An interactive and experimental group, known as the Laptop Ensemble, from California State University, Long Beach will be one of the 30 artists participants in the ninth annual SoundWalk event in Long Beach, Calif. Representing an ample opportunity for a firsthand glimpse at an art trend of ever-increasing popularity, SoundWalk 2012 will feature sculptures, environments and performances that play upon indoor and outdoor elements.

The Laptop Ensemble is comprised of music and composition students from the CSULB Bob Cole Observatory of Music and directed by music and composition Professor Martin Herman.

“The Laptop Ensemble is a chamber group that performs interactive experimental music on laptops,” Herman said.

The students interact with one another and the sounds in a number of ways.

“Sometimes more or less improvisatory within provided bounds, other times more score-driven or performer driven if we are collaborating with a live performer,” Herman said.

According to FLOOD member Marco Schindelmann, SoundWalk was created in 2004 by FLOOD in an interest to bring together the arts and commerce within the city. After witnessing the bimonthly Long Beach Art Walk, FLOOD member and East Village business owner Kamran Assadi approached fellow residents and business owners asking for support and participation with the event. Assadi received positive responses, and with the help of the city and community members, FLOOD was able to organize an event that drew more than 1,000 observers its first year.

“Long Beach was actually one of the first and most important cities in helping video art become more recognized and independent,” Schindelmann said. “Using Long Beach as the venue for SoundWalk has served as a positive way for us to positively serve art and the community.”

Professor Herman said he and the Laptop Ensemble enjoy participating in events such as SoundWalk.

“We feel it is very important and necessary to be part of the community and not closed off in an insular academic shell, which can sometimes happen in a university setting in spite of one’s best intentions,” Herman said.

An avid supporter of modern art transformation, he refers to the Long Beach sound art community as an extraordinary collection of people who have strong profiles as creative artists.

The five members of FLOOD determine SoundWalk’s final submissions based on artists’ exploration of this year’s theme: connectivity. As stated on the SoundWalk website, the sound art pieces integrate “any combination of the visual, conceptual or performative” in order to “activate, catalyze, inspire and surprise” the audience.

“FLOOD doesn’t want to present a certain message, but it wants the people to create a message,” Schindelmann said. “We’re more interested in what the spectator or audience interprets as the message themselves.”

Glenn Bach, a musician, sound artist and audio and digital film professor at the Art Institute of California will be serving as the docent for this year’s event. An eight-time participant of SoundWalk, Bach said the event has “this buzz that’s hard to explain.”

As docent of SoundWalk 2012, Bach will lead tours through the galleries and said he will focus on selected works for the experience of the viewer.

“It will be a little spontaneous, and I don’t even know what to expect,” Bach said. “I do know that it’s going to be amazing, with a lot of intriguing work from people all over East Village.”

When asked to define sound art, Bach said everyone has his or her own way of defining it.

“If you asked five different artists the definition of sound art, you would get five different definitions,” Bach said. “You could say that it’s any kind of artistic statement that uses sound as its primary vehicle.”

While it may be indefinable, sound art is quickly becoming an important component of the modern art revolution. Its three-dimensional qualities and open-endedness enable levels of audience interaction previously unattainable through the traditional, one-dimensional art forms. Rather than being able to walk away from a painting inside a gallery, sound art’s multi-dimensional elements can penetrate a unique combination of the senses.

“The loose structure of sound art is what makes it vital,” Bach said. “It gives us [sound artists] the freedom to experiment in ways in which other artists, like painters, cannot… because we don’t have the same limitations a physical artist may have.”

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