Free Soundasaurus events invite bystanders to take part

The Soundasaurus Festival of Multimedia Sound Arts is worth a listen as it roars through the city from November 14 to 16 but it also creates an opportunity for people to make their own noise at free events that are engaging introductions to the possibilities of sound.

“We want people to have fun with sound and experiment and play” says Tammy McGrath Soundasaurus’s curator. “They’re serious pieces but at the same time they’re accessible and their function is to give an introduction to someone who may not know what sound art is and also to appeal to people who already know all about sound art. They’re complex enough that they keep the interest of somebody who’s experienced and somebody who’s not.”

Two installations at the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts both open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. every day until Saturday invite participation in creating sound. In Dance Drum Variations in the Ledge Gallery artist Michael Leeb combines Chippewa and Cree drum-making techniques with found objects. For example he’s turned things like a cigarette stand a stool a gramophone and a bicycle horn into drums. Not all the pieces are interactive but those that are produce surprising sounds.

“They’re beautiful objects to touch and to feel” says McGrath. “The unexpected nature of it is really appealing to people and to audiences.”

Just downstairs in the Arts Learning Centre you’ll find Kyle Whitehead’s Aleatronic Feedback Machine . With a lot of technical wizardry behind it the piece includes two posts one of which is strobing light. The two components interact with each other: the light is produced based on sound input and the sounds are created based on how light hits the circuit board on the second post. As participants move between the posts or otherwise alter how they interact with each other it will change the entire piece. Throw in an aleatoric action or an element of randomness built right into the machine and “it will never be the same experience twice” according to McGrath. “It can’t be just because of the nature of the piece.”

You may also find yourself — indeed may have already found yourself — the unsuspecting audience of a soundbombing. “A soundbomb is a very short public sound piece that infiltrates in unexpected places so it’s not something that audiences may be expecting” explains McGrath. “The intent is to reach an audience that may not be familiar with sound art give them a little taste of it.”

Soundasaurus first experimented with soundbombs at last year’s festival and this year has enlisted performer Kevin Stebner (a.k.a. GreyScreen) who works with chiptune or video game music. “Because he’s working with Gameboys and creating sound pieces with Gameboys [it’s] accessible and fun to people and they understand what it is — so even though it’s experimental people aren’t afraid of it” says McGrath.

She has noticed that passersby often stay for the whole 15-minute set: “It’s rare that people keep walking by without at least stopping for a few minutes…. That to me says that people are very interested.”

You don’t have to know anything about sound art to enjoy these experiences but if you dabble just a little in events like these you might hear sound differently. “Part of why we have these free events is we want people to explore thinking about sound differently and that everyday sounds can also become these beautiful little bits of time within the psyche that you may not be aware of” says McGrath.