When Velvet Underground front man Lou Reed released his fifth solo album, "Metal Machine Music" in 1975, the musician took a drastic turn from the sound his fans were used to by recording an industrial album that had no structured compositions, or even any songs.
Nearly 40 years after its original release, Reed has worked with Arup Engineering Sound Lab to create a new sound art installation at the University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach, that will debut "Metal Machine Music" as an ambisonic 3D re-creation. The exhibit, which is the second in the w.i.r.e: T/A/P series that explores the frontier of new sound, will run from Jan. 27 through April 15.
"In the 1970s, when it was recorded, it was an avant-garde album that was before its time, as far as sound art and industrial noise music was concerned," said UAM spokeswoman Amanda Fruta. "Lou showed his dedication to more adventurous creative processes."
A few years ago, Reed partnered with musicians Ulrich Krieger and Sarth Calhoun to form Metal Machine Trio - a group that went back to the experimental and noise music from the album, and recorded a 2009 live performance with John Zorn at the Blender Theatre, in New York City.
Arup Sound Lab collaborated with Reed to produce the live performance as an ambisonic recording in 3D.
"The engineers reworked this recording and changed the frequency of the feedback," Fruta said. "It takes the recording and focuses it down to Lou, himself, while he's performing it."
When visitors enter the sound lab at the UAM, they will essentially be transported onstage, and hear the sound as Reed hears it while performing onstage.
The entire "Metal Machine Music," in four parts, will run continuously, and people will be able to sit in the middle of the lab while surrounded by 12 speakers placed in a sphere around the room, or walk around to enhance the sonic sound.
"When you come into the sound lab in the museum, when you're at the center, you basically step into the shoe of Lou Reed," Fruta said. "You hear what he heard on stage. If you go to the right, you can hear Ulrich play the sax, and if you go to the left, you will be closer to Sarth, where he was actively adding modulations and he was working the synth."
In 2009, the UAM worked with U2 member Brian Eno to bring his visual art exhibit to the museum. After the success of that show, UAM director Christopher Scoates decided that Reed's sound art would be another interesting and different exhibit to feature at CSULB.
"Eno has another life in visual arts that involve sound, music and visuals," Scoates said. "Lou Reed is a complete and utter contrast to that. It is really a reverb sound noise album. These two are on opposite ends of the spectrum."
Reed will sit down for a conversation with music producer Bob Ezrin, at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27. Tickets are $45, and can be purchased at www.carpenterarts.org.
For more information, call the box office at 985-7000.