Sonic Genealogies: Olivia Block on Harry Bertoia for Radio from Reina Sofia Museum

Sonic Genealogies: Olivia Block on Harry Bertoia for Radio from Reina Sofia Museum

 Olivia Block

Olivia Block

 Harry Bertoia, From The  Harry Bertoia Foundation

Harry Bertoia, From The Harry Bertoia Foundation

Olivia Block’s Sonambient Pavilion, a multi-channel sound installation that envelopes listeners at the pasture-like lawn of Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, has been resonating well beyond its premiere in 2015 with the press, reviews, a documentary currently in the works and now podcasts. Block’s work for this ESS commission is a sonic homage to the brilliant sound artist, architect and instrument maker, Harry Bertoia (1915-1978). Sounds from two "sonambient" sound sculptures by Harry Bertoia (1915–1978) in the Aon Plaza on Randolph Street (the Bertoia works are within walking distance of Millennium Park) are amplified and electronically manipulated, then spatialized into the array of 50 loudspeakers above the Pavilion's lawn, creating a shifting, shimmering sonic architecture superimposed on the Pavilion's visual architecture. Sonic Genealogies, a podcast created by curator and researcher Arnau Horta, focuses on the shared listening experience and how contemporary sound artists pay homage to some of their greatest influences. Sonic Genealogies talked to Olivia Block about her Sonambient Pavillion, her relationship to Harry Bertoia, Chicago, processes of listening, and different approaches to thinking about sound sculpture. For those who are new to sound sculptures and installations, Block defines the concept quite elegantly in her interview. “Bertoia was a composer in the same way that David Tudor was a composer when he created his sound producing objects. In that sense, I think that the object itself that creates the sound is more of a composition. There’s an awareness that sound will result from that object doing something and the sounds that come out from that are going to be somewhat unpredictable. So, if one is thinking about this idea of a sound object... the controversy around that term is about the fact that an object isn’t really time-based. Usually when you think about sound pieces or music you think about this events that take place in time. I am not necessarily thinking in terms of sound objects but more in terms of space, and I think Bertoia thought in terms of space as well because he was so involved in the community of architecture.”

The Sonic Genealogies series is a part of Radio from Reina Sofia Museum. You can check out this podcast and others featuring artists, Jim O’Rourke and Steve Roden at http://radio.museoreinasofia.es/en/genealogies