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Laughter & Tears

Laughter and Tears was a surround-sound installation that used the Pritzker Pavilion's state-of-the-art sound system in a unique way, creating a fluid, highly evocative sonic architecture within the Pavilion's lattice-covered lawn. Starting with recordings of laughter from a variety of sources, including improvising vocalists, anonymous audiences, and ordinary citizens, Chicago composers Olivia Block and Joseph Mills employed numerous electronic and acoustic techniques to transform and structure these sounds into a coherent musical form that explored laughter in all its range and nuance, from the comic to the devious. Sound artist Lou Mallozzi will worked with the composers to shape this composition into a surround-sound format intended as an immersive installation environment, a sonic architecture superimposed onto the material architecture of the Pavilion. Laughter and Tears was commissioned and presented by Experimental Sound Studio, and ran continuously November 4 and 5, 2011, from 10AM to 10PM. It was a follow-up to ESS’s enormously successful Train Time, which was presented at the Pavilion in fall of 2009. The piece was presented in partnership with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture and is scheduled to coincide with the Sound Art Theories Symposium organized by the Sound Department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Joseph Clayton Mills is an artist, writer, and musician who lives and works in Chicago. His text-based paintings, assemblages, and installations have been exhibited in Chicago, New York, and Europe and his work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker. His fiction and criticism have been published both in the United States and abroad, most recently in the magazine Wolf Notes and the architectural journal Log, and he is the author of the short-story collection Zyxt (Entr’acte 2010). He is an active participant in the improvised and experimental music community in Chicago, where he has performed and collaborated with such notable musicians and composers as Adam Sonderberg and Steven Hess (as a member of the band Haptic), Sylvain Chaveau, Tony Buck, Michael Pisaro, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Olivia Block, among many others. His recordings have appeared on numerous labels, including FSS, either/Oar, and Entr’acte.

Olivia Block creates original sound compositions for concerts, site-specific multi-speaker installations, film, and performance. In a recent feature article in the April 2011 issue of The Wire magazine, Julian Cowley describes Block’s compositions as “finely nuanced textures of environmental material and occasional surges of sonic power blended with an elegant instrumental architecture.” Her compositions often include field recordings, scored segments for chamber instruments, and electronic textures. Additionally, she performs her own partially improvised compositions for inside piano and electronics.

She has performed throughout Europe, America, and Japan for nearly 20 years. Her works have premiered at La Biennale di Venezia 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music among many other festivals. Her release Mobius Fuse (Sedimental, 2001) was voted one of the best albums of the decade by Pitchfork. Her 2008 DVD release with film artists Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder, Untitled (SOS editions), was included in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and the Expanded Cinema symposium at the Tate Modern in London.