Leave it to the brothers Bluebrain (and additional creative curator, Cynthia Connolly) to challenge the notion of where music and art intersect.
Time and time again they have pushed the boundaries of how music should be listened to, interpreted and enjoyed (if you haven’t downloaded Bluebrain’s three location based music apps, do it). Fermata is hardly an exception to this career trajectory, if anything it’s a logical next step, icing-on-the-cake move that solidifies the duo as not only musicians and artists, but innovators with foresight most of us only wish to lay claim to.
It’s all unassuming in the beginning. If you’re into art (or culture, or music) you’ve probably been to Artisphere for something but Fermata is more than just another opening, it is an experience. A full blown aural journey set over an hour-and-a-half (but don’t quote me on that) that is meant to make the listener feel surrounded by the orchestral and electronic compositions that play on, but never imposed by them. I read somewhere else that this is the kind of art exhibit that you lose yourself in, but at your own pace and without any guilt towards… checking your phone, having a conversation, or being a normal human. To me, that’s a brilliant way to put it. It is art without pretension. It is a concert without the need to be altogether tuned in to the acts on stage. Just look at the ruby red lounge chairs that line the floor… this is an exhibit meant to hit you in waves, and hit you in waves it does.
It’s a little hard to describe the aural journey we, the patrons, were put through in the preview but I will say it was worth it. From sweeping crescendos to intricate movements that made me feel like I was hovering outside the Starship Enterprise as it prepares for intergalactic battle… there is a moment, a movement, a stanza, a coda for everyone to latch onto and enjoy. I particularly enjoyed the selection which was reminiscent of the Pink Floyd classic, “Time” with all of the gongs and clocks sounding off, instilling a frenzied moment of panic and alertness to it’s listener. It awakens you from those hazy few moments where you were lost in thought or sound, and brings you back to attention abruptly. And with 44 speakers mounted on the wall of the Terrace Gallery, you can be certain you can hear every hum, ting and whisper. I highly recommend you move throughout the complex, as the sounds do take on a life of their own as you change you location (an homage and effect most notable in the “geographically aware albums” of Bluebrain yore, no less).
Featuring nearly 30 artists, Fermata takes an expansive approach and is a celebration of individuals using sound in a variety of disciplines, from composer Ryuichi Sakamoto to NASA Kepler scientist Lucianne Walkowicz. The list of contributors is lengthy but impressive with other notable acts including Ian MacKaye, Beauty Pill, and members of The Books, Double Dagger and Future Islands too. As it stands, Fermata will unfold in three movements, each featuring a different combination of six to ten sound works that will cycle continuously for a month. Each Movement will play on a continuous loop with no two works playing simultaneously in the gallery; each piece will utilize every functioning speaker on the wall, allowing playback of multi-channel audio works. Fermata will conclude with Coda, a collaboration with Transformer as part of their annual Exercises program for emerging artists.
Fermata is open now through Sunday, August 10th at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd, Arlington VA).