Symphony on the Brain
Sound installations are a relatively new idea for the Eau Claire area, but “Symphony on the Brain” could be the first of many from local musician/composer/ideas man Davy Sumner. “I hope to challenge people’s perspective of a piece they’re familiar with, as well as introduce them to the concept of a sound installation,” he says.
Sumner is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for his sound installation which will be installed at Banbury Place this month and is over halfway to his goal, but needs just a few hundred more dollars before Thursday.
The sound installation takes on a popular melody – "Ode To Joy" – and creates a 'sculpture' where visitors can create their own experience depending on where they're standing in the room. Here's some more about it:
The melody from “Ode to Joy” is easily recognizable; even if the title escapes you, you’ve heard it in television commercials, slap-stick comedy montages, or as the main motif in the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Sumner knew that this melody was familiar to most people, but postulated that many musicians couldn’t readily play it from memory. To test his hypothesis, he asked twelve musicians to individually play “Ode to Joy” on the spot - without any preparation time - while he recorded them. Mistakes were permissible and even encouraged; Sumner just wanted them to get through the melody. He gave the musicians time to rehearse the melody before recording them a second time, and then asked them to play it a third and final time in whatever key signature or style they desired. This is where the project gets interesting.
After collecting all of the different recordings from the various musicians, Sumner set about chopping them up into smaller samples, which were interspersed with performers asking him questions while the melody was being recorded. He then fed each musician through one of twelve speakers that are set up in a building on the Banbury property. “It’s huge, probably about the size of a basketball court,” Sumner says about the location for his sound installation. “Each speaker is positioned to face directly down, so the listener can stand underneath it or off to the side in order to experience the project cohesively.” Any number of speakers could be playing at any given time; two speakers emitting sound could change to eight in a split second, all to create what Sumner describes as a “dovetail effect.”