This year's Outer Ear Festival of Sound comes to a close | Bleader

This year's Outer Ear Festival of Sound comes to a close

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This year's Outer Ear Festival of Sound winds up this weekend with a couple of promising events.

On Friday night at Heaven Gallery sound artist Seth Nehil (pictured) of Portland, Oregon, presents a multimedia performance called "Flock and Tumble" that includes four video projections, a six-channel sound score, and a dozen performers, including some students at School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The fest's PR material describes it thusly: "Articulating a 'creatureality,' 'Flock & Tumble' evokes the patterns which emerge among frog calls and fish schools, swallow flocks and insect swarms. While a choir navigates the space around and among the audience, flashing glimpses of dance, percussive bursts and clusters of melody are dispersed throughout the space. The performance will be guided by a rhythmical/musical choreography that determines rules of interaction. This work is interested in physicality, bold sounds and intentional play. 'Flock & Tumble' merges wildness and precision in an audiovisual 'becoming-animal.'"

That doesn't say much about how the music will actually sound, but I've heard a couple of Nehil's albums, and if they're any indication you can expect an exhilarating mix of environmental sound and elaborate postproduction effects, organized with sharp compositional logic.

Then at 3 PM on Sunday, December 7, former Chicagoan Jenny Gräf Sheppard (ex-Bride of No No, Metalux) will make an appearance at the Fern Room of the Lincoln Park Conservatory as part of an opening reception for her sound installation "Osmosymbiotic Echo," part of the ongoing Florasonic series, which Experimental Sound Studio--the operation behind the whole festival--has been presenting for more than seven years now. Here's what the fest says about the piece:

"Birds, through song and wing beat pattern, produce frequencies that cause the stomata in plants to open and absorb moisture and nutrients. Jenny Gräf Sheppard's installation 'Osmosymbiotic Echo' in the Fern Room of the Lincoln Park Conservatory uses bird song structure and wing beat patterns as the foundation of a composition that stimulates plants by emulating what birds do naturally. At one moment, sound seems to emanate from the surroundings; gradually, what seems to be ambient sound erupts into birdcalls and wing beat patterns.

"Sheppard's piece is in response to ecological changes that began at the start of the second Industrial Age. Since the 1800s, hundreds of bird species have vanished, impacting plants tremendously. Humans also formed new relationships to plants since the Industrial Age, housing them indoors. Elaborate conservatories, made possible by the use of large steel armatures, became popular as an escape from the polluted cities. Indoors, plants became tokens of human domination and control over nature and the subsequent loss of green spaces. 'Osmosymbiotic Echo' stimulates an intuitive sense of the symbiosis between plant, bird and human. Though it exists, most of us deny it.”

The installation will be up through February. Full disclosure: Sheppard, who lives in Baltimore, is a friend of mine--but don't hold that against her.

Today's playlist:

Coleman Hawkins, Hawk Eyes! (Prestige)
Oasis, Dig Out Your Soul (Big Brother/Reprise)
Beatriz Azevedo, Alegria (Biscoito Fino)
Ersen, Ersen (Finders Keepers)
Derrick Gardner & the Jazz Prophets, A Ride to the Other Side . . . (Owl Studios)

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