ITHACA, NY - A musical washing machine, a desert howl, and tennis balls bouncing will be just a few of the acoustic experiences in the May 1 performance by Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett, co-creators of the 90-second public radio show and podcast “The World According to Sound.” The 8 p.m. event, in Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, Klarman Hall at Cornell University, is free and the public is invited.
Hoff and Harnett will use an eight-speaker Meyer Sound system placed around the audience to create a surround-sound effect. “It’s a powerful speaker array with some substantial subwoofers. It'll be War of the Worlds like you've never heard it before,” said Harnett.
The audience will wear eye masks so that they can experience the evening immersed in sound, with auditory-only cues. The show will include a musical performance by a washing machine, a sonorous tennis match, a disturbing howl Marco Polo heard centuries ago while crossing the Gobi Desert, and a simulation of the acoustic signature of the Hagia Sophia. It may also include Hoff and Harnett’s recent work with the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an exploration of California from the acoustic perspective of the blind.
“Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett are working with sound in an innovative way, communicating directly with sound instead of using it to ‘illustrate’ a text,” said Jeremy Braddock, associate professor of English and chair of Cornell’s multi-disciplinary Media Studies Initiative.
Harnett and Hoff will be Artists in Residence at Cornell in Fall 2019. During their residency, Hoff and Harnett will collaborate with Cornell faculty and students, and host listening events for the community at large. They will introduce students and faculty to different recording and mixing techniques they’ve developed while working on their new radio series and live show.
“By focusing on a sense that a lot of people are not in touch with, there's fertile ground for opening the mind up to new ways of accessing and processing information,” Hoff said.
Hoff and Harnett will also produce a series of audio lectures drawn from the unique collections across the university and based on the work of Cornell faculty and students. Subjects will include recordings made at the Lab of Ornithology, sound and music collections held at Olin Library, the Historic Keyboards and Moog Collections, and sound-based research from within the sciences. These audio lectures will be available online for listening.
“We look forward to bringing sounds from all over the world to the ears of Ithaca, and the sounds from Cornell to the ears of listeners all around the world,” said Harnett. “We hope our residency can help expand on the growing excitement around sound that is percolating in Cornell.”