‘Silent Music’ Sound Installation in Qualcomm Institute Mimics Living Organism

Detail of tiny loudspeakers and wires from Silent Music installation

San Diego, March 27, 2017 — Silent Music, an installation by Canadian sound artist Robin Minard, is an ongoing work that mixes perceptions of nature and technology. The work is conceived for installation in quiet public areas or exhibition spaces, and the sounds of the installation are designed to color the silence of the existing space.

Earlier incarnations of Silent Music in (top) Warsaw's Center for Contemporary Arts in Ujazdowski Castle, 2015; and (bottom) at Whanki Museum, Seoul, Korea, 2014. (Photo by R. Minard)

The exhibition will open on Thursday, April 6, 2017, and will run through June 9 in the gallery@calit2 on the first floor of Atkinson Hall on the UC San Diego campus.  On the same day, the Qualcomm Institute will host a talk by artist Robin Minard at 5pm in the Calit2 Auditorium (Atkinson Hall) and a panel discussion with Minard, retired Qualcomm Institute sonic arts director Peter Otto, UC San Diego professor of psychology Diana Deutsch, and QI’s current composer in residence, Katharina Rosenberger. The panel will be followed by a 6pm reception open to the public.

The installation is composed only of speakers and speaker wire, which are placed in a manner suggesting life, growth and a movement toward light. “The hardware inhabits the space much as a living organism would,” said Minard. Silent Music’s small, piezoelectric loudspeakers and their attached wires are arranged on surrounding walls to form plant-like structures (evoking an image of flowered vines climbing the walls of the gallery). 

The work’s relatively quiet sounds consist of a mixture of natural and synthetic sources. “The sounds of the installation may be reminiscent of a light wind blowing through bushes, of water flowing somewhere nearby, or of insect-like sounds,” added Minard. “Some sounds are static, some move slowly within the installation.”

Just as the aural and visual experiences draw on man-made and natural elements, the installation projects the observer back and forth between perceptions of the familiar and the unfamiliar — “between that which we perceive as being natural and alive, as opposed to technical and artificial,” according to the artist.

Sound artist Robin Minard. (Photo by Jens Hauspurg)

Robin Minard was born in Montreal in 1953. He studied music composition and electroacoustic music in Canada and Paris. Since the early 1980s his work has focused on electroacoustic composition and sound installation art. From 1992-1996 Minard was a lecturer on sound installation at the Electronic Studio of Berlin Technical University. Since 1997 he has been a professor for electroacoustic composition and sound design at the University of Music FRANZ LISZT Weimar as well as the Bauhaus University (also in Weimar), where he also directs the Studio for Electroacoustic Music (SEAM Weimar).

Minard has been artist-in-residence of the DAAD Berlin Artists Programme; the Canada Council Studio (Paris); the Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada); Künstlerhof Schreyahn and Schloss Wiepersdorf (Germany); the Institut für Elektronische Musik, Graz (Austria); the Het Apollohuis, Eindhoven (Holland); the Villa Serpentara, Olevano Romano (Italy); the Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art, Pittsburgh (USA), IRCAM / Centre Pompidou (Paris) and the Ten Drum Artist-in-Residence Project (in both Kaohsiung and Tainan, Taiwan). His works have been presented in festivals, museums and public spaces worldwide.

The sound artist and composer has published several articles and books on the subject of sound installation. His books “Silent Music: Between Sound Art and Acoustic Design” (2003), and “Four Spaces / Four Installations” (2004), are published by Kehrer Verlag in Heidelberg, Germany.