Audible Terrain:
A day of SoundCulture

by Jeremiah Moore

Events in the North Bay SoundCulture '96 took place from April 2nd through April 13th in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, as the "third trans-pacific festival of sonic art and contemporary sound practice." It is the third festival to bear the name SoundCulture, following one in Sydney in October 1991, and one in Tokyo in 1993. SoundCulture was initiated by a group of Australian artists and arts organizers. The next SoundCulture event is being planned for 1998 in New Zealand.

A large undertaking, SoundCulture '96 was for budgetary reasons non-centrally funded. A group of seven "organizing institutions" worked on putting the festival together, while 25 more "participating institutions" devoted part of their resources to providing support in the form of performance space, funding assistance, graphic design and printing, etc. As such, there was less consistency in terms of design and implementation of the various shows, publicity pieces and the like. In the place of consistency, however, was a wonderfully diverse variety of viewpoints, aesthetic styles and artistic methods.

All in all, kudos should be given to Ed Osborn, the director, and the rest of the organizers, for putting together such a wonderfully diverse program, utilizing a diverse set of resources. Perhaps the organization of SC96 provides a decentralized cooperative model for the funding of large cultural events in this age of diminishing funding options.

The festival was quite large. Altogether, I count 64 events (including performances, panel sessions, radio broadcasts and receptions for gallery shows), and 17 installations and gallery works on the program. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend much of the festival due to prior commitments, but I would like to describe two pieces which took place on Saturday, April 6th in Marin County as part of a series of events that day entitled Audible Terrain: A Day of SoundCulture Events in the North Bay.

Ann Wettrich's Aviary Commute took place aboard the 10:50 Golden Gate Transit Bus #80 from San Francisco to San Raphael. The composition invites participants to "turn an ordinary bus ride into an ornithological migration." Participants were asked to meet at the bus station and to bring a portable tape player. Kathy Kennedy's soundwalk/performance piece entitled "The Blue Pathway," a rather successful attempt at creating a deep listening environment in a public place, took place on Saturday April 6th at the Corte Madera Town Center Mall, about 30 minutes north of San Francisco.