Museum of Modern Art, New York City

SoundTube Enhances “The Art of Sound Technology”
Excerpted from Systems Contractor News (February, 2015) with permission of the author.

By Kelleigh Welch, SCN Managing Editor

New York is home to some of the largest art museums in the country, but also boasts hundreds of
small galleries and cultural centers that really captivate and celebrate the diversity that is New York
City. But with an estimated 50 million plus tourists passing through the city each year, the details
that go into each exhibit might get overlooked.

When I say ‘overlooked,’ what I mean is that the majority of attendees to these museums are more
concerned with seeing a specific exhibit or piece (example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art draws
record numbers to its Temple of Dendur in its Egyptian wing, or the Museum of Modern Art for Van
Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’) versus giving attention to the detail that went into creating that exhibit. And
for many of these exhibits, AV plays an integral part in creating the experience the curator imagined.

Recently, I met with Museum of Modern Art curator Juliet Kinchin to talk about her new exhibit
‘Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye,’ a show that tells the story of music, design and
technology, starting from Edison’s invention of the phonograph, all the way to modern music
players, record players, loudspeakers and amplifiers.

“It’s a show entirely from MoMA’s collection meant to look at this two-way inspirational interface
between design, technology, music and sound,” Kinchin explained.

But the exhibit isn’t just about looking at a bunch of cool old audio gear (although for the audio
nerd, it’s actually wicked cool), it’s about how the design of these products has fit in to film,
architecture, etc., and how music has played a role in art.

“It’s about how we connect sensations of sound and vision, and actually how music is a new
material art form and is very grounded in the physical and technological world,” Kinchin said.

Among some of the highlights in the exhibit are a series of short animation films coupled with music
composed for the videos; a Philips loudspeaker from the 1920s; a 1957 Fender Stratocaster with a
Fender Basement amplifier; and a 1963 Scopitone music and video player, which the museum plays
films on once a week to give viewers the full experience.

Since this new exhibit is as much about the experience of hearing recordings as seeing them,
MoMA’s Audio Visual Design Manager Aaron Harrow played a big part in setting up the exhibit, using
a few SoundTube loudspeakers and transducers to bring the exhibit to life.

In the center of the one room exhibit is a self-contained box structure that showcases some of the
smaller audio pieces, protected by a glass window. To give viewers that full experience, Harrow
placed a SoundTube SD1 Transducer (note: the SD1 is manufactured by SoundTube’s sister
company SolidDrive) to the corner of the glass (one on each side of the box structure), turning the
glass into the speaker that plays recordings of the various items in use.

“It’s about the size of a small soup can and is mounted directly to the glass,” Harrow explained.

Another part of the exhibit highlights the music of some later artists, from the 1950s on. To help
immerse viewers into the work of these musicians, SoundTube came into play once again, this time
with arrangements of FP6030-II speakers hung from the ceiling, which direct the sound to the
people standing directly underneath.

“The speakers look like big, transparent jellyfish,” Kinchin described. “We programmed the second
half of the exhibition using the Troikatronix Isadora computer program to connect a light projected
onto one of the objects on the display with the related soundtrack (playing from the speakers).”

The purpose of the exhibit, as Kinchin explained, is to use the audio, video and lighting in the exhibit
to demonstrate this relationship between music and sound, and to show how the two have evolved
together over time.

“The experience of connecting our sense of vision and touch with the design of these artifacts has
dramatically changed,” Kinchin said. “There’s been such amazing changes in where we listen to
music, the kind of spaces we listen to music in, and the kind of music made possible by new
technologies, and we wanted to really animate that in this space.”

For more information on the MoMA’s ‘Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye’ exhibit.
See more at: AV Network