Jesse Jarnow

engine 27’s rational amusements (greatest misses #4)

Happy 2007. Still recovering from various reveleries, but here is another Greatest Miss: a brief item circa November 2002 for a now-defunct (I suspect) NYC freebie paper whose name I don’t recall about the sound art gallery, Engine 27. I picked up copies for a few months after I submitted it, but never saw it in print and never heard back from the editor. I was a little premature in calling Engine 27 firmly established, it seems, but so it goes. Diapason is still kicking.

Engine 27’s Rational Amusements
by Jesse Jarnow

Lower Manhattan has long been rife with the so-called rational amusements: scientific dream factories like PT Barnum’s American Museum where exotic worlds might be conjured. And where Barnum displayed the curios of destinations fantastic, Jack Weisberg’s Engine 27 multi-channel sound gallery allows visitors to walk through jungle darkness, strange symphonies erupting from every corner. Housed in a decommissioned TriBeCa firehouse, the space open to the public is little more than a long, dark room adorned by 16 custom-built speakers. Below the floor, though, mind-bending technology hums and directs sound, creating what managing director Eric Rosenzveig calls a “physical three-dimensional landscape.”

Multi-channel sound-as-art has existed at least since Iannis Xenakis and Le Corbousier’s 1958 Brussels World’s Fair collaboration with Edgar Varése, but the form seems to have blossomed in the past two years, with the firm establishment of not only Engine 27 and Michael Schumacher’s midtown Diapason Gallery, but a nod from the Whitney, who included a sound room in their most recent biennial. “I think [one of] the primary directions in music in the past 10 years has involved breaking open the stereo field,” says Rosenzveig, who thinks “all music can work well in a multi-channel environment, if the artist is interested in addressing [one].”

Electronic musician Tetsu Inoue, who had never created for multi-channel before, sculpted the rich Active Dot (for 16 lines). Though he admitted having trouble adjusting to the new spatial palette, he claims that after his residency, “CD format is kind of boring, very timeline based.” Engine 27’s first batch of artists-in-residence, a “Noah’s Ark” of 30 composers combining invited guests and open-call applicants, tried to sample a multitude of aesthetics. As highfalutin as the specifics of Engine 27 are, the results played like rotating weekly features at one of William Gibson’s futuristic stim-parlors: magical, and all for a fair buck.

1 Comment

  1. Pulpio says: - reply

    Lots of great stuff here, though:

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