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Cinnamon Sphere

A day long series of sound installations and concerts,
Linden Gallery, St. Kilda, 21 Dec. 1997
Cinnamon Sphere

Curated by Garth Paine
Review by Warren Burt


In the world of the galleries, sound is often paid lip service, when it is acknowledged at all. I have often gone to galleries and had to tell the staff how to operate the equipment in order to even hear the sound works installed in them. The world of equipment is often all too much for curatorial staff trained to think of art as something that sits quietly on a wall.

How refreshing, then, to attend, and be part of an all day event in a gallery devoted to sound, where the nature of sound and of the gallery was carefully attended to, where the equipment all worked, and where one could experience a wide variety of sound events in a congenial, open atmosphere.

"Sonic Residues" was an all day event, consisting of 10 installations, distributed throughout the gallery spaces, and four "hour-long" concerts, of both live and taped sound works, distributed throughout the day.

It was organized and curated by Melbourne sound designer and composer Garth Paine, who was assisted on the day by composer Lawrence Harvey, the staff of the Linden Gallery, and the good will of family, friends, and the composers involved.

The main thing that impressed me about the mammoth job of organizing such an event was the care with which Garth conceived of the whole gallery as a sounding entity - in such a way that although there were 10 installations going, and they did sound into each other - none of the mixing of sounds seemed to be obnoxious. The loudness of each installation was kept down, and small, but high quality speakers were used, so that each had its own space where it was predominant, but did not overly intrude on the spaces of the others. As long as one accepted the basic premise that the installations were going to be part of an overall mix, the placement of them in the different rooms of the gallery worked very well. In two rooms, there were even two installations going simultaneously - one on loudspeakers, the other on headphones. This worked very well, allowing for moments of acoustic solitude and concentration in the middle of what was otherwise a very busy environment.

The installations ran throughout the day, except when the live concerts were happening. Linden is a gallery with very resonant acoustics, and in which all the rooms open onto a central corridor. A pin dropped in one gallery can be heard in them all. To combat this, Garth hung black sound absorbing curtains on at least one wall of each gallery. This tamed the bathroom-like reverb of the gallery to a manageable level.

Installations: Gallery 3

Across the hallway, in Gallery 3, there were again two installations. Under headphones, in another of Linden's beautiful bay windows, was Robin Whittle's stunning "Spare Luxury" and "Tanglewood Interlude", two tape pieces designed to be heard over headphones. Pretty pieces when heard over loudspeakers, as they were during the concerts, it is only under headphones that the full nature of the sound becomes apparent. It consists of many different strands of sound, each one moving around the listener's head at differing rates. I've heard a lot of this sort of work before, but this is the first piece like this where the incredibly accurate moving of sound in headphone space did not sound like a gimmick, but was a powerfully integrated part of the composition. And the installation in a bay window in a gallery, with comfortable cushions to recline on, seemed to be a perfect way of bringing this sort of essentially private composition into the public sphere.

On loudspeakers at the other side of the room, and on the walls and in documentary photobooks on plinths, was an installation by Canada-based Sarah Peebles, the Toronto-based Trio, Cinnamon Sphere, and calligrapher Chung Gong Ha. Graphics by Korean calligrapher Ha, which had been produced to the music of Cinnamon Sphere (Peebles, computer-assisted performance, Nilan Perera, altered electric guitar, and Ha, calligraphy), hung on the walls. The sounds of the shô (Japanese mouth organ), crickets, percussion, and many sampled sounds slowly and gently filled the room and pervaded the gallery (from Peebles’ CD, "Suspended in Amber" -ed). More than almost any other of the works, this one seemed to become the most "environmental," the most a part of the architecture of the gallery itself, despite its being a "residue" of different, live, performances.

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