Is a book or publication not as tied to time and sequence as a symphony in three movements? Does a duet between voice and piano not contain two distinct colors that, when combined, create an entirely new hue? The Design Museum of Chicago poses interesting questions that urge the viewer to dig deeper into the connections between music and design—two disciplines that are rarely brought side-by-side, especially within a museum setting. Exploring those crossovers, “All Together Now: Sound × Design” provides an audiovisual experience that blurs the lines between the two.
Featuring artifacts that either incorporate or are inspired by music in an abstract way, allow for the performance of music in and of themselves (think the design of an instrument), or are used to sell or brand music (like a logo or packaging), “All Together Now” gives twenty-four artists and designers from across the country, each chosen through a blind-jury selection, the opportunity to exhibit work that connects sound and design with one another, and with the world.
In a futuristic-looking open gallery space, listening stations are surrounded by two-dimensional and three-dimensional artifacts—from digital-video projections and audio works, to old-school mics, gig posters, turntables and speakers. Communicating emotion in an imaginative way, Katherine Steiner’s “Nine people listening to Für Elise by Ludwig van Beethoven” presents nine graphs, each mimicking the way each person felt about the music. Daniel H. Walden visualizes the components for blending and making transitions into songs into an audio mix in his work, “Prayer to Heaven via 2011.” Rachel Steele’s “Remixing Transit” transports you through a cross-cultural sonic interpretation of a commute, exploring the distinctions between noise, sound and music. Blending field recordings gathered on CTA trains, buses and public parks with original music compositions rooted in jazz, hip-hop, modernized Chinese folk and flamenco traditions, Steele represents the social identity of the Chicago neighborhoods (the Loop, Chinatown, Pilsen) passed through on the commute—and poses a playful challenge: will you be able to identify your whereabouts and type of transit you’re on solely based on audio feedback?
Elsewhere, industrial designer Emiliano Godoy, in collaboration with award-winning audio engineer Hans Mues, introduce the Acoustic Wall—a modular system that can be configured in size, acoustic performance and lighting capabilities to match architectural and interior design projects of different scales and styles. This literal wall of light and sound goes beyond manipulating space through sound, light and design—it becomes a color-changing installation. Light reflects on stripes of solid glass sound-diffusers with bands of upholstered foam which work for sound absorption. As its intensity and color temperature changes, the world as you experience it does too. Soon you realize that the parallels between sound and design are countless and that “All Together Now:” only scratches the surface.
Opening during the City of Chicago’s Year of Chicago Music (2021), a citywide initiative that celebrates music and the integral part it’s always played in Chicago’s creative culture, “All Together Now: Sound × Design,” seeks to create a sensory experience where art, design and music become one and traditional boundaries are nonexistent. By connecting the physical, digital and emotional world, it provides a new way of experiencing sound design—and design in and of itself, a deeper understanding of what we see, hear and touch, and, perhaps most importantly, a new ground upon which to connect.
Through April 3, Design Museum of Chicago, Expo 72, 72 East Randolph.
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