SoundWalk 2012

LISTEN UP. The art installation "Drip" uses 16 tuned metal bars and dripping water to create a unique sound palette.

There was a time before Curiosity roamed the Mars surface and Neil Armstrong took one large step. Space can be imagined as a disorienting place — Alan Nakagawa and Joseph Tepperman’s “First In Space” explores that confusion when the Cold War powers first sent up animals to the great unknown.

The sound art installation created by that exploration will be one of about 40 shown at SoundWalk 2012, which will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, near the East Village Arts District — loosely between First and Fourth streets and Linden and Elm avenues.

“We’re paying homage to the animals used at the beginning of the Russian and U.S. space programs,” Nakagawa said. “It’s trying to keep it light, but also bring awareness to the fact that it happened.”

To that end, the Nakagawa and Tepperman constructed a tent-style spaceship that people can walk into and interact with. There will be projected images of what the animals might have seen during their training and missions. A poem will be on display that people can talk along to, while influencing what images flash before them — the whole time atmospheric sounds will play in the background.

“I think what Joseph and I are doing is a good example of what sound art is, in that we are both musicians, but we’ve created something beyond performance to create this mood,” Nakagawa said. “I think what we need to do — in any field, not just the arts — is to go beyond the norm and stereotype and push the boundaries.”

“First In Space” is just one of a variety of installations that will be peppered around the downtown area. The free event will have maps for people to track down each installation, but there also will be a panel at 7 p.m. at Fingerprints that will involve about a half dozen artists. After that panel, there will be a guided tour of the installations for anyone who wants some help interacting with the art. The event is provided by the artists’ collective FLOOD.

“It really is presenting the greater public and community an art form that was a little bit esoteric and unknown,” said Marco Schindelmann, FLOOD member. “But after nine years (how long SoundWalk has been taking place), a lot of people in Long Beach who hadn’t experienced sound art are familiar and see this as a signature event.”

For the artists of SoundWalk, Schindelmann said, the emphasis is on spaciality and how sound relates to that space it occupies — or even the tension between the work of art and the space itself, which could be enclosed or out in the open.

“The work itself is progressing,” he said. “Early on, we dealt with a lot of objects that produced sound, and now we’re dealing more with objects that facilitate listening.”

Beyond “First In Space,” there will be plenty of other odd projects like an installation examining shells and hearing the ocean, being able to hear and see one’s own brainwaves and an installation called “Drip” that is made of tuned metal bars that interact with drops of water.

“Sound art started at the beginning of the last century and had its roots in a group called the Italian Futurists,” Schindelmann said. “They produced a manifest called “The Art of Noises”… Music is about hierarchical listening, where you are told what to listen to. Sound art is about democratic listening, to choose what you want to be listening to.”

For more information on the event as a whole and many of the artists who will be displaying at it, visit www.soundwalk.org.

WHAT: SoundWalk 2012

WHEN: 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1

WHERE: Between First and Fourth streets and Linden and Elm avenues

COST: Free

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