The LED at the End of the Tunnel

I’ve been a member of Gamelan Son of Lion, on and off, for 15 years. I explain it to my friends as my “poker night.” It feels that way. The members are all composer/performers who are known for their works in many different styles who unite once a week in their shared love of playing and performing on the gamelan, an orchestra of metallophones, tuned gongs and percussion indigenous to Java and Bali. One of the members that I’ve been playing with for the last couple of years, John Morton, has been getting good notice for what he does at his “day job,” creating sound installations. This time the locale of his work is a pedestrian tunnel in New York City’s Central Park. About as far from a gamelan as one could get, Morton used Cycling ’74’s Max/MSP software in the creation of this work.

The composer John Morton inside a tunnel, just north of the Central Park Zoo, that features a random collage of sounds he recorded all around the park.

The composer John Morton inside a tunnel, just north of the Central Park Zoo, that features a random collage of sounds he recorded all around the park. Photo credit: Michael Appleton for The New York Times

The official blurbage from the New York City Dept. of Parks & Recreation reads thusly:

“This summer, avant–garde composer John Morton’s sonic collage, Central Park Sound Tunnel, will be installed in one of Central Park’s iconic pedestrian tunnels between the Central Park Zoo and the Tisch Children’s Zoo at 65th Street. Beginning every half–hour with the ringing of the Delacorte chimes, this 20–minute, 6–speaker sound installation incorporates field recordings made in Central Park over the last year.

Using computer technology, a randomly generated selection of ambient sounds such as horses clopping, baseball games, birds, and chime tunes are woven together to form ever–changing compositions that echo through the cavernous tunnel.

John Morton’s Central Park Sound Tunnel enables visitors to experience the sonic landscape of the world’s most famous park,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “This multi–faceted installation furthers our commitment to presenting innovative public art by leading contemporary artists and provides another exciting reason to visit Central Park this summer…”

MP3 sound examples on this page.

Recently, the New York Times published their own review of the piece and the artist.

John Morton, Central Park Sound Tunnel
June 8 to September 10, 2009
8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
North of the Zoo and Delacorte Clock

-Patrick Grant

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