Sound and Sight Walk

Sound and Sight Walk

“I never would have imagined hearing spring through snow, but there it was, thanks to your ear trumpets. It gave me a feeling of hope and wonder.” (L) “I felt like a walking tree. The burl not so much amplifying sound as enhancing the quality of our presence in the landscape. Richness through timbre. Each wood, each instrument's shape, a tesseract opening.” (M) “…like putting on glasses." (D)

Karen McCoy, Kansas City, United States

Sight and Sound Walks, based on contemplation of place with emphasis on our bodies as sensing organisms, move us through space listening with carved wooden trumpets. Sounds may be experienced as subtly amplified and made clearer, for example, strands of falling water made discrete from each other. Inverting the trumpets to site through the large end transforms them into devices to locate minute visual phenomena. Play of light and shadow on a patch of moss or lichen feed a memory bank of sound and sight that may build up as residue of the walk.

These instruments operate similarly to Beethoven’s ear trumpets. McCoy’s trumpets are carved from burls of Maple, Oak, Box Elder and Elm. (A burl is a tree growth in which wood grain has grown abnormally.) Two walks have taken place, one in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (part of a music festival) and one in New York City’s Central Park sponsored by the Walk Exchange 3/15. The sights and sounds of interest on the walks are often so woven into the fabric of the everyday as to be scarcely noticed. Of central concern is recognition of the importance of simple awareness. Aided by small handmade objects participants are able to hear and see in alternative ways. A cultivation of these facilities allows frequent retreats from the usual patterns of fast-paced lives, and nurtures the need to break from the mechanical rhythm of contemporary life.

Designing experience so that viewers must walk to discover it is an act overlaid with many intentions. The ear acts as conduit between the outer world and the inner realm of each individual. Walking with a focus on listening and looking invites slower pace and increases sensory perception. Inherently dispersed in time and space, a walk calls on viewers to remember all the parts in order to experience the whole. In experiencing sound as geographical, the process is one of assembling sound into an aural picture of the landscape. Concentration on small visual fragments of beauty in the environment can alter our perception of place and filter into our daily lives. The sound and sight trumpets provide a way of cupping our ears and eyes to the earth.

“Your walk that day was magical. I never would have imagined hearing spring crackle through all that snow, but there it was, thanks to your ear trumpets. It gave me a feeling of hope and wonder. Thank you for that.

Yesterday M and I had lunch to discuss our experience--that's how much of an impression you made on us! We shared what had been most meaningful, and speculated why the experience moved us so deeply. We decided it had to do with how it was a unique individual and collective experience, and one that spanned from minutia to something quite monumental. We appreciated how beautifully you crafted not only those burls but also the route you took us along, which introduced me to part of the park I don't remember visiting. I love that you were able to attract a group of strangers who left feeling like they wanted to know one another more.”

Lydia Matthews, Writer, curator, professor/Visual Culture, Director/Curatorial Design Research Lab, Parsons/The New School for Design
“I have been thinking about our Sight & Sound Walk. Wandering and wondering, the movement that lets our imagination fly. How exquisite to pair this with your ear burls. I felt like a walking tree. The burl not so much amplifying sound as enhancing the quality of our presence in the landscape. Richness through a particular timbre. Each wood, each instrument's shape a tesseract opening.”
Maureen Koelsch, Dancer, Imaginarian

“I enjoyed being able to touch the unique ear trumpets and take a few moments to concentrate on hearing (and so did Peregrin). It was interesting because for me, it took a few moments to key into the sounds that were funneled... they felt on the "treble-y" side, and the details were amazing. It was like putting on a pair of glasses.”
Dillon De Give, Artist, dad, teacher, Walk Exchange Co-Founder

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