Arts

Celebrate Sound At The High’s Sonic Playground

Each sculpture featured in "Sonic Playground" creates a unique sound with a source for input and output.
Each sculpture featured in "Sonic Playground" creates a unique sound with a source for input and output.
Credit Courtesy of The High Museum of Art

On Friday, the High Museum of Art is officially activating the Sifly Piazza with dancing, music and their latest installation “Sonic Playground.”

The installation is the vision of Yuri Suzuki an artist, designer and electronic musician famous for creating soundscapes utilizing technology and engineering. The project is the latest in a series of installations, such as “Mi Casa, Your Casa” in 2014 and “Los Trompos” or “The Spinning Tops” in 2015, geared to engage the Atlanta community during the summer months.

The past projects were designed, mostly, with children in mind, but Suzuki created “Sonic Playground” for all ages.  The artist drew inspiration for the installation from the current political climate in the United States and the importance of communication.

Each sculpture featured in “Sonic Playground” creates a unique sound with a source for input and output. Suzuki says he designed each piece with the intention of two people interacting.

The outcome is a collection of horns that increase sound and communication.

“Right now, communication is really important. There are important changes happening and people never communicate with each other,” Suzuki says referencing artificial intelligence such as commands given to drivers in a car.

Each sculpture featured in “Sonic Playground” creates a unique sound with a source for input and output. (Courtesy of the High Museum of Art)

“It’s easier to speak with a person and fastest in audio. Communicating with sound experience is much stronger than typing with text.”

The parabolic structures he designed allow sounds to be heard from one end of the Piazza to the other. The megaphone shaped sculptures amplify surrounding sounds. The flower like sculptures feature low and high positioned horns and create direct lines of communication from various heights.

The long horn pipes send metallic sound effects when people speak through them and the High Horns allow visitors of different heights to sit under the low horn and listen to sounds coming from above.

The switch structure inverts the way visitors hear sounds. When a person stands in the structure, the right ear receives sounds from the left side, and the left ear receives sounds from the right side.

The project required a lot of mathematical calculation, so Suzuki collaborated with a group of engineers in London. It was important the metal sculptures could project the sound so he also worked with an acoustic engineer.

Suzuki, who has worked with will.i.am, Google, Moog, Panasonic and Disney on research, development, sound and design, says he thought about what kind of communication and new discovery could be found while he was designing the installation.

“Los Trompos (Spinning Tops)” by Mexican designers Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena was added to Sifly Piazza  in 2015. (Courtesy of the High Museum of Art)

“Through the sound stream delivery, you really discover a new way of unexpected communication,” Suzuki says.

“Each sculpture needs to have two people to increase the opportunities for people to talk.”

The element of community engagement involved with the installation is why the High selected Suzuki’s project for their 2018 Piazza Activation Initiative says Virginia Shearer, Eleanor McDonald Storza director of education at the High.

Shearer has watched the Sifly Piazza installations evolve and says Suzuki’s project has something for everyone.

“It will be interesting and engaging to our early childhood audience that we’re really committed to and it will be interesting for kids,” Shearer says.

“It’s really STEAM connected and there’s a lot of science involved, so I think older kids will get really excited about the possibilities there.”

Currently the High Museum of Art is showing Outliers and American Vanguard Art and Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. The installation sits in what Shearer calls “a magical space” en route to the Alliance Theatre, Anne Cox Chambers Wing and the Wieland Pavilion Lobby.

The upcoming First Friday featuring live music by Jennifer von Schlichten and Chris Schweigert,  cocktails made with honey, a tea party, and a gallery talk with “Sonic Playground” in the middle of it all is where adults can interact with the pieces says Shearer.

“Our adults come to play. One of the great things about this project is I have seen people of all ages. I’ve seen 70-year-old people slide down a slide and laugh and have so much fun. Yuri’s hitting that right mark for us,” Shearer says.

“At the High we want to be that gathering place where all of Atlanta feels welcome, comfortable and excited to be immersed in the arts and Yuri’s piece is going to do that for Atlanta.”

Audio story by Molly Samuel.