From ADN: This Alaska art was made to be heard - not seen
August 10, 2021
Of the five human senses, the one you probably expect to use at a museum is sight. From history to science to art, contemporary sculpture to ancient artifacts, a trip to a museum is often a primarily visual experience.
So when the Anchorage Museum set out to explore the sounds of the circumpolar north, the curators knew they were going to have to think very differently about how patrons would experience an exhibition that has no visual components.
“Listen Up: Northern Soundscapes,” currently on view at the Anchorage Museum, relies entirely on sound and music to explore creative life in the north — and bringing it to life meant thinking outside the box.
In 2017, the museum deployed five audio recorders to spots across the state, one each in Anchorage, Nenana, Nuiqsuit, Sitka and Soldotna. All day, every day since then, these devices have recorded the sounds around them, collecting “soundscapes” from each place.
If a landscape is a wide view of a place — its layout, shapes, colors and features -- a soundscape is the same idea, except that the “picture” is auditory, not visual. A soundscape is a collection of sounds heard in a specific place -- the ambient noise that you might (or might not) notice while standing in that spot. The soundscape for the museum’s Anchorage recorder, for example, tells the story of its location along a trail near the South Anchorage High School playing fields, punctuated by the sounds of dogs, ravens, quiet recreation and distant vehicle traffic.