Oct 2, 2011

Just Press Pause:
Are You With Me?

Soundwalk/Crossing the Line
Curated by Gerard Cherqui
fiaf.org/crossing the line
Free download
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday
11am -5:30 pm
I was lucky to be read to when I was a child.   I know how mesmerizing the sound of the human voice telling a story can be.  Soundwalk, part of the Crossing the Line Festival organized by French Institute at the Alliance Francaise is a series of stories you can listen to on an MP3 player or smartphone.  Each of the four "soundstories" takes place at a museum:  Metropolitan, Neue Gallery, Guggenheim  and the last one at the Reservoir in Central Park.
Teju Cole's Soundwalk, "Farewell Tour" uses the story behind Jacques-Louis David's portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and his wife Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze as a metaphor for the protagonist's real life narrative.  Now, this might sound boring, but it would be a mistake to think so.  I found the story of Lavoisier and his wife more compelling than the story of the main character.  Lavoisier discovered oxygen and hydrogen, lost his head during the French Revolution when the committee determined that they needed neither scientists or chemists. 

Tegu Cole "meets" you at the Great Hall and guides you up the Grand Staircase to the painting.  In front of the painting, there is a bench.  You sit and listen to the story.  Descend the staircase again, and you are met by Olivier Cadiot who guides to Room 105 in the Egyptian Wing. 

For me this should have been the most compelling story.  It begins with a 2000 year old box with the drawing of a garden.  Taking your garden to your grave, would you want to?  This narrative closes with the idea: What if they closed the doors to the Met and we waited 2,000 years to open it!

My favorite listening experience is called "Peggy's Glasses", read by Camille Laurens.  A couple of years ago, I splurged and purchased the glasses.  They are sunglasses and as Laurens says they resemble a Venetian mask.

Laurens' story is distinguished by its interaction with the listener.  She asks you to enter the Guggenheim shop, try on the replica of Peggy Guggenheim's famous glasses.  Laurens poses several questions and finally you return the glasses to the sales clerk and go into the Rotunda, which according to Laurens is the place with the most beautiful light in all New York. 

Again she poses the following question:  What is the COLOR that tears at your memory?  a dress, a forest, an egg yolk, a nail polish, a tie.  What color is your strongest memory?  I am still thinking of the answer to this question. 

If you have been to these museums a couple of times, you can listen to the Soundwalk, without actually being in any of these museums. It would help to google the David painting and have it on the screen as you listen, as it would to have an image of the Guggenheim glasses on the screen.  I listened again at home to these Soundwalks and I was as immersed in most of the narratives as I was the first time I listened.  I don't ever get the audioguide in a museum.  I hate being tethered to the device and I dislike being told what I am seeing.  Soundwalk is different.  It's a gift to be read to once again.

Olivier Cadiot, The Met
Philippe Claudel, Cafe Sabransky
Camille Laurens, Peggy's Glasses
Teju Cole, Farewell Tour
John Giorno, There was a Bad Tree

Texts available in English and French
Supported by original music
and sound design by Soundwalk.

Funded by Etant donnes, the French-American Fund for the Performing Arts, a Program of FACE, and the Societe des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques


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