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Crickets Come Alive With Modern Art Orchestra At Artpace

(Author's note: I suggest you listen to this story -- hit "listen" above)

Artpace has opened a new exhibit and I was able to go down and walk through it. It's happening primarily in the Hudson showroom, and it's really an exercise in auditory imagination. As you walk in you think you're hearing crickets, but as you round the corner to see the video, you realize you're hearing something else entirely.

“A violinist, a flautist, a clarinetist, a percussionist,” said artist Mungo Thomson describing who was creating those cricket-like sounds in his new exhibition Crickets for Solo and Ensemble.

“The music score is based on a French compilation of field recordings made all around the world" he explained. 

Thomson ingested those actual cricket chirps into a computer which transposed them into musical notes. Then he arranged those sounds into a musical score, which he shared with musicians.

“And we would play them the recording and show them the sheet music. Pretty soon we would get the sound we were looking for,” he said.

Thomson’s ensemble recreated those cricket sounds, and a video was shot of the tuxedoed musicians performing the score. That’s at the heart of Artpace’s Hudson Showroom exhibition, which runs through April 27.  But there’s also a wall full of framed music scores, minus one thing: The ink.

“I knew I wanted to make artworks out of the music scores because I thought they were really beautiful, and a little bit absurd," Thomson said. "And it was even more absurd to print them with a plate, and no ink."

A recurring theme here is to notice that which we take for granted.

"Crickets are the thing you hear when it’s quiet," Thomson said.

Like crickets, there’s more to this exhibit—tiny iPods in Ball jars playing individual cricket-like sounds. The modern art symphony plays on at Artpace.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii