Sound Sculpurted Space

What just happened to me? I feel as though I have just awakened from a dream. Soft droplets of water were hitting my face, the children in the park were giggling while a stampede of horses came and trampled me, but I remained completely calm and serene as the waves washed over my face. And I was awake the entire time. This is what happens when one ventures to Audium, an experience in sound and space.

Started by composer Stan Shaff in 1960, Audium is a sound theatre designed to be most advantageous with the sound and space theory. The experience of sound and space begins as soon as you step into the nondescript wooden building slightly hidden on the corner of Franklin and Bush. Pellets of rain can be heard from the distance as you purchase your ticket. Visitors wait in the bizarrely decorated foyer where sculptures are showcased in various corners and raindrops can be heard sporadically as visitors wait to be led to the main performance space. Promptly at 8:30 the curtain in front of the hallway, or sound labyrinth, that leads to the auditorium is pushed aside unveiling Stan Shaff.
Leading his followers down a dark pathway, listeners are situated in a circle in the main auditorium where the ceiling is covered in sound panels and 169 speakers line the walls. The lights turn off completely and the bath of sound begins.

Prior to my first visit to Audium I was advised to go in with an open mind and to not fall asleep. I recommend the same to anyone who so chooses to indulge in this meditative practice. Shaff’s composition uses what he calls “universal sounds”—the sound of children playing in the park, for instance, is the same sound in every country. “It doesn’t matter what language the children are speaking,” Shaff explains, “that sound is similar no matter where you are on Earth.” Shaff said he likes to use “environment as language” and stated that “audiences should feel sound as it bumps up against them, caresses, travels through, covers and enfolds them.”

– Cloe Schlidhause

photography by Mark Akamine