Last night I experienced a sound installation at the Wexner Center by Ray Lee called Siren (Thanks to Bobby Silver for the tickets). We were brought into a theater and told not to speak during the performance, to turn off our phones and were encouraged to walk around the space during its length. After that we were ushered through an industrial hallway to this back room behind the stage.
Inside this big room were a bunch of tripods with horizontal metal arms on them. Some of these were tall and others were low to the ground. There were two guys in identical grey coats that began to arm the voltage chips in the center of these tripods with little metal tools. They would begin to make a single tone for each end of the arms on the tripods of which they would tune with their little tools by increasing or decreasing the voltage. They went around the room like this for a while creating in effect a large chord of different tuned tones. After a while they switched on these motors that made the metal arms rotate. This caused the tones to modulate and shimmer. The two men seemed to be able to control the speed of the rotations as well.
Slowly a cacophony of shimmering tonal combinations filled the space. As you moved about different melodic figures would emerge, all modulating and pulsating in different rhythms. I got mesmerized by a couple particular areas. Eventually they turned the lights off leaving you alone with the twinkling red fire fly-like blinking L.E.D. lights on the end of the arms. The humming sound filled the room. It wasn't all that loud but very dense and multi layered. You could get lost in it. You would pick up on a specific note and it would follow you around the room. It was like being in a tent in the dark and listening to the hum of a thousand different mosquitoes.
It was really soothing and meditative. I could fall asleep in there. It left me in a state of wonderment. Despite being an art work based in simple machinery, it made me wish I lived a hundred and fifty years or so ago when electricity was just emerging and things like magic still seemed real. Maybe art work like this is the only real magic we have left.