Words by Chris Clark
It's not very often you come across an experience like SonicVision. Now playing at Denver's Museum of Nature and Science as well as the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and New York's American Museum of Natural History, the exhibit offers a mind-expanding adventure through auditory and visual stimulation.
The faces, masks, and patterns in this scene were
inspired by David Byrne and Brian Eno's "Mea Culpa"
Attempting to put the SonicVision experience into words provides a bit of a challenge. Produced by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the joyride through artistic space is an exhibit exploring how we as individuals interpret art. In doing so, it asks, "How do you listen to music?" Moby, who lent a helping a hand to SonicVision, also placed his unique touches in choosing the exhibit's fine musical selection, from Coldplay to Radiohead and from Boards of Canada to U2.
Before I get too much into SonicVision, I must first give some information on the planetarium's workings. Zachary Zager, who is the Planetarium's Systems Administrator in Denver, took a few moments to share some details on just how the Gates Planetarium operates.
The intense beats of "First It Giveth,"
by Queens of the Stone Age, inspired these images
"Gates Planetarium creates its full-dome digital image using 11 DLP projectors running at 1280 x 1024," says Zager. "This is created using a digital playback system by QuVIS. The sound system is a 16.4 mix - 16 speakers around the dome and 4 sub tracks. This allows us to be able to not only place the audio around the audience, but anywhere in the planetarium - up, down, around."
For those of you - myself included - who have no idea about any of the technological mechanisms discussed in the previous paragraph, Zager sums up the notion well. "Gates Planetarium is one of the most technologically advanced planetariums in the world. There are only a handful of digital domes in the world and each is unique in its design, making them difficult to rank."
Alex Grey's painting, Collective Vision, was adapted to accompany Zwan's "Honestly"
Rank or not, the room is truly a sight. As you walk in, the feeling of being completely encircled in space surrounds you. This awe-inspiring setting gave me the feeling of being trapped in the outer reaches of space and feeling utterly comfortable there. Before getting a chance to completely soak in the entirety of the surroundings, the sounds of Stone Temple Pilots' "Lady Picture Show" began, the lights faded, and SonicVision began.
For some 40-plus minutes, we were treated to and sometimes startled by the exhibit's mesmerizing graphics and musical combinations. From Alex Grey's painting entitled Collective Vision adapted to Zwan's song "Honestly" to the bursts of electrifying color during Audioslave's "Cochise," SonicVision began with a boom that never ceased. U2's "Elevation" was set against the art being called Alien Planet Ride, provided a dizzying adventure through tripped-out galaxies occupied by dancing geometric robots with antennas and glowstick hands.
Audioslave's "Cochise" inspired this image of
a fantastic journey through space
After five minutes, my mind was already blown.
Perhaps the most intriguing and impressive portion of the event was during Coldplay's "Clocks." This segment, dubbed "Mandala Machine-Clocks," enjoyed blow-your-mind visuals that flowed flawlessly with Chris Martin's delicate voice and intricate piano playing.
Truthfully, there were no dull moments in SonicVision.
Whether it be Prodigy's "Fire Starter," which saw a crew of green aliens dancing in a swirling cosmic universe, or Boards of Canada's cathedral-filled, jump-out-of-your-seat structures in "Julie and Candy," SonicVision was the best 40 minutes I've spent in some time.
If you live in the Chicago, Denver, or New York metropolitan areas, I would highly recommend taking the hour out of your schedule to go see this exhibit. Plan in advance though, because SonicVision is sold-out for a month in Denver, and it's surely a tough ticket wherever it may be.
SONIC VISION PLAYLIST
Radiohead - Everything in its right place
Audioslave - Cochise
U2 - Elevation
Moby - Into the Blue
Stereolab - Metronomic Underground
White Zombie - Blood, Milk & Sky
Goldfrapp - Utopia
Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentleman We are Floating in Space
Brian Eno & David Byrne - Mea Culpa
David Bowie - Heroes
Coldplay - Clocks
Fischerspooner - Emerge
Prodigy - Firestarter
Queens of the Stone Age - First it Giveth
Moby - We are All Made of Stars
The Flaming Lips - Do you Realize?
Zwan - Honestly
Moby - God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
View the SonicVision Trailer here.
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