- Greggory Moore
By Greggory Moore, Curtain Call Columnist
There was nothing quite like SoundWalk in Southern California. For ten years running, the arts organization FLOOD curated as many as 50 site-specific works from an international array of sound artists for a one-night transformation of Long Beach’s East Village Arts District into an indoor/outdoor gallery of multisensory installations.
So when FLOOD pulled the plug on its signature event in 2013, it was quite a loss for the city, the region, and the art form. Which is partly why soundpedro, last year’s reincarnation/reimagination of SoundWalk at Angels Gate Cultural Center, was such a success.
“After the first soundpedro, it became apparent just what an important niche even this is for the sound-art community,” says FLOOD’s Marco Schindelmann. “In the four years between the last SoundWalk and the first soundpedro, a whole new generation of sound artists sprung up, many of whom never had the chance to participate in something like this.”
Originally green-lighted to happen biennially, Angels Gate was so chuffed with the inaugural event—which drew nearly 1,000 people, the biggest turnout at Angels Gate in 2017—the decision to completely pick up the SoundWalk baton and make it an annual happening was almost immediate. “For a first-year event at an out of-the-way place such as Angels Gate, [the turnout] really shows there are people who want to come out and see this kind of work,” says Angels Gate Executive Director Amy Eriksen.
Situated on 36 arts-centered acres at San Pedro’s highest elevation, Angels Gate is an ideal location for a sound-art event. “We have vistas on all sides, and the combination of indoor and space allows for lots of nooks and crannies where people can discover [the installations],” Eriksen says. “[Plus,] so much area allows for [attendees] to hear the works [as they approach] before they see the visual component that [many installations] have.”
A lifelong Long Beach resident, Eriksen originally approached FLOOD about reconstituting the event in San Pedro partly because she wanted to give others the opportunity to be impacted in the same way SoundWalk hit her in the mid 2000s. “[Such an event] allows for unexpected moments of sound around every corner,” she relates, “and I think those moments lead you to think about how sound works in your own life.”
This year’s international crop of artists hail from away as Kazakhstan, who together will create a total of over 30 works, be they stationary or mobile, self-generating or interactive, performatory or participatory, analog or computerized, purely auditory or audaciously multisensory. Dillon Bastan promises “a kinetic interactive installation with swings.” Steven Speciale’s “Automaton Bricolage Cogitating” is the result of transforming the carcass of a free Craigslist piano into a dadaist sculpture that, through use solenoids, contact mics, and samples from the piano itself, will generate musique concrète to be piped into speakers strewn throughout the grounds. Brian and Ryan will roam Angels Gate with their “Sound Collection Helmets,” collecting “ambient sound and conversations from the show” and creating recordings for other soundpedro artists to customize on the fly to help shape the overall experience.
Taken all together, soundpedro will provide an overall aesthetic experience that changes constantly depending on how you approach it. Walk the exact same route through Angels Gate twice during the evening, and you are bound to get two rather different experiences. You can never take it all in, because part of soundpedro is how it unfolds over time. The more open you are to the ever-changing variety of sensory elements around you—including the unplanned and seemingly random—the more you’ll discover.
Unchanged from last year to this year (as in: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) are the fundamentals: soundpedro is “an ear-oriented multi-sensory event, presenting numerous artists whose work addresses sound and aural perception in combination with other senses.” What that means for you is partly how you approach this big audiovisual playground in which you have four hours to freely frolic. Is it simple novelty? Deep meditation on sound as a transformative environmental factor? A chance to get stoned and trip out on San Pedro’s closest approximation to Burning Man? It’s up to you. But no matter how you approach it, soundpedro is a feast for the senses and (in the words of FLOOD) a prime chance “to investigate the way we perceive and experience.”
New this year is the hours. Whereas the inaugural soundpedro ran from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., this year it’s 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. This preserves the opportunity for earlycomers to enjoy the transition from day to night (pretty spectacular, what with Angels Gate’s commanding 360-degree ocean view), yet allows a greater portion of the event unfold under cover of night, when the complete effect of the installations—many of which have a strong visual component—is on full display.
Noting that in July 2017 San Pedro became one of 14 state-designated Cultural Districts, Eriksen feels that soundpedro helps the city deserve that cachet. “San Pedro has been growing an arts scene for 30 years, and Angels Gate has been a part of it,” she says. “But San Pedro is now a destination location for arts events, and I think soundpedro highlights that.”
soundpedro, an evening of ear-oriented multisensory presentations
Time: Saturday, June 2, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost: Free! (includes parking)
Details: angelsgateart.org, soundpedro.org
Venue: Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro