Andrew Bird and Ian Schneller’s “Sonic Arboretum” | Classical preview
Indie violinist Andrew Bird teams with his favorite speaker-maker for a spectacular sound garden. And he gets to work from home.
Andrew Bird’s kooky-looking, custom-made speakers have long played a signature role in his live gigs. Now they take center stage. The horn speakers are fashioned out of compressed recycled newsprint and lint by local sculptor and instrument-maker Ian Schneller. Each one takes about two weeks to fabricate by hand. “People save me dryer lint and send it to me,” says Schneller, who has been friends with Bird for more than a decade. “A little bit goes a long way. I’m pretty well stocked.”
Seventy of those speakers will be arranged in the MCA’s atrium to create Bird and Schneller’s novel installation, “Sonic Arboretum,” an inventive cross between amplified music performance and work of art. Violinist Bird will record initial compositions at the museum and send musical loops to different groups of horns. Visitors can walk through the sound garden as Bird layers and changes the compositions from home, using computers. A special double concert on December 21 and 22 features Bird performing onsite, manipulating the sounds of his violin as concertgoers wander through the installation. With the horns varying in size from three to nine feet, it’s a designed feast for both eyes and ears.
The exhibit debuted at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in August but arrives in Chicago with a new site-specific composition—and an architectural advantage. “The MCA space is basically a cube, whereas the Guggenheim is conical and tall,” Schneller tells us. “The MCA will enhance the spatial dispersion effect of the compositions. It should be an outstanding effect.”
"Sonic Arboretum" opens December 6 at the MCA. Check out our behind-the-scenes tour of Schneller's studio at Specimen Products here.