Sound art installation by composer Kari Watson and artist Emily Harter on display throughout CHIMEFest

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On Friday, June 17, the CHIME Studio at The University of Chicago presents CHIMEFest 2022, a gathering of composers and sound artists from the Midwest. The festival will include performances of music for instruments and electronics, acousmatic works, works with video, a sound art installation by UChicago composer Kari Watson and artist Emily Harter, and a presentation by Melody Chua, Interdisciplinary Artist of Interactive Technologies and Associate Lecturer at the University of the Arts in Bern, Switzerland, on "(Dis)embodiment with an Immersive Improvisation Machine."

The sound art installation by Kari Watson and Emily Harter, titled Sounding th' Hunt, is on display throughout CHIMEFest. View the full schedule of CHIMEFest events.

Artist Statement:

Sounding th’ Hunt is a collaborative sculptural sound installation by Kari Watson and Emily Harter. The piece uses two handmade ceramic vases, painted and carved with images of a hunting scene, as speakers. Two fixed electroacoustic pieces crafted from archival audio echo the cartoon logic present in Harter’s frenetic images. 

The surface decoration is both playful and gruesome, referencing the sporting tradition and its necessary brutality. While both vases employ a similar motif, the method of image-making calls on dichotomy, juxtaposing a delicately painted surface with tactile, gestural sgraffito (carving). 

Each vase possesses distinct acoustic and sonic qualities, resonating and amplifying sound according to its unique shape. Through the use of experimental sound, circuitry, and electronics, this piece explores the possibility of treating these vessels as resonant bodies, sounding and amplifying their imagery according to their form. The introduction of analog electronic sound into these objects of antiquity recontextualizes them in a contemporary setting, edging them closer to the present, while the sonic component speaks to this time-crunch, recalling at once antiquity, the early days of analog electronics, and the nostalgia crafted by Foley artists. 

By introducing a fixed piece constructed of unprocessed and processed public domain recordings from the BBC, Warner Brothers, and Hanna-Barbera sound archives, Harter’s images, already brimming with narrative and affective potential, gain further context and meaning. The exaggerated form of “Tapestry Vase i” suggests a playfulness which is echoed in the way the fixed piece treats its source material. In contrast, “Woodblock Vase i” more closely resembles traditional standard amphorae; this, along with its comparatively staid surface treatment, prompted a more somber arrangement of archival sounds. This tonal difference between the two objects was further emphasized by engagement with different sets of samples and by use of audio processing such as pitch shift, reverb and decay. In this, sound is altered towards different connotations; nudging, in turn, towards levity and gravity. The limited duration of the fixed media piece aims to relate to the immediacy of the decorated surfaces, resulting in a sonic object, or portrait, rather than a formal piece of music.