Sonos Studio NYC merges art, tech and music

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The Ancient Chaos sound-reactive installation

The Ancient Chaos sound-reactive installation

Sonos, a company that has long pursued the perfect merger of music with technology, furthered that cause—with a strong artistic flair—as it previewed its Sonos Studio NYC experience on Sept. 30. The attraction will be open through Oct. 5th.

Held at the Neue House—an experimental office space at 110 E. 25th St.—Sonos Studio NYC is a follow-up to the manufacturer’s original Sonos Studio in Los Angeles, which was established in 2012, as, according to the company “a destination for artists and creators from around the world to come to collaborate with Sonos, a lab for exploring our artistic and musical curiousities, and a cultural manifestation of our passions.”

In that spirit, Sonos has rolled out the New York version, which I experienced during its press preview on Sept. 30.

Entering the space, the first thing that caught my eye was “Ancient Chaos,” a sound-reactive architectural installation on the ceilings in which chambers of silver-coated mylar visually responded to the music of recording artist Dev Hynes. A collaboration between Sonos,

The "Listen, Make, Play" space

The “Listen, Make, Play” space

Spoon member Eric Harvey and video artist JD Walsh pose in their "Outlier" experience.

Spoon member Eric Harvey and video artist JD Walsh pose in their “Outlier” experience

The "Sounds of New York" exhibit gets activated

The “Sounds of New York” exhibit gets activated

The wiring that makes "Sounds of New York" run

The wiring that makes “Sounds of New York” run

The Sonos Studio NYC music stage

The Sonos Studio NYC music stage

engineers/designers The Principals and Hynes (who composed the music specifically for this installation), Ancient Chaos can also respond to ambient sound. A microphone was set up in a seating area under the attraction so attendees could trigger movement in the installation by speaking into it—and the ambient chambers were also attuned to react to the sounds in the building.

Downstairs, in the “Listen Make Play” space, attendees were able to custom-build their own Sonos speakers using AutoDesk and components from the company. This area also housed a 3D printing and microphone enabling guests to create their own 3D voice waveform.

From there, I entered a small theater space in which an ongoing video-music-art experience developed by the band Spoon and designer JD Walsh was being shown. Walsh and Spoon member Eric Harvey were there to present the experience, and explained how it came together. Walsh took “stems” (individual musical components used in remixes) from the Spoon song “Outlier” and developed visuals—playing on a large movie screen, a small triangular screen, a screen in the shape of a drum cymbal, and a rectangular screen that appeared to be a loudspeaker.

Spontaneous things would happen randomly—the cymbal would crash, objects such as feathers would appear on the screen, and a variety of visuals would pop up on the large and small screens—as bits of the music would be randomly triggered. This created an ongoing, spontaneous improvisational audio-visual composition. The visuals were very compelling, and the audio (each screen station had a Sonos speaker) was tremendous. Harvey described it as a “Jackson Pollack sound painting,” which played around with the idea of an audio remix.

The next installation I saw was “Sounds of New York City,” another dazzling hybrid of audio and visuals. Created by Swedish designers Perfect Fools in collaboration with musicians Big Noble (Daniel Kessler and Joseph Fraioli), the exhibit consisted of 300 Sonos Play:1 speaker shells loaded with LEDs to create colored lighting effects. Triggered by motors, the shells could move away from and into the wall and the colors of each could change to create images. Complete Sonos speakers framing the shells provided the audio.

The featured configuration was a map of the NYC metropolitan area. Using a Microsoft Kinect camera hooked up to the system, demonstrators could select different “areas” on the map, which would trigger music or ambient sounds inherent to that neighborhood. Choosing various blocks in combination created some very interesting spontaneous sound compositions.

Sonos Studio NYC also had a music stage on which artists will be performing throughout the event’s run. Sonos Studio NYC is open to the public through Oct. 5th, but you must RSVP in advance, as space is limited.

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