Steve Parker

Steve Parker, the director of SoundSpace, plays trombone in the Blanton Museum of Art during the art interactive show, SoundSpace. Photo courtesy of Adam Bennett.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

The halls of The Blanton Museum of Art are normally filled with silent spectators; but on March 10, local musicians will perform live with the art as their backdrop. In the audience interactive show, “SoundSpace,” viewers have the opportunity to absorb the Blanton’s collection of art while the series of concerts perform around them. 

With music played in the untraditional setting of a museum, Adam Bennett, the manager of public programs at the Blanton, said “SoundSpace” can shed light on museums as a positive experience and dispel negative feelings surrounding them. 

“I love when we are able to demonstrate that the museum can be a site for creativity to happen — live and in the moment,” Bennett said. “A lot of people think of museums as warehouses and memorials to creative works that were created 100 years ago to store. And they are that. But museums can also be places where people find inspiration from the art. The museum doesn’t always have to function as a warehouse. Museums should be alive and fun and places where creativity happens.”

Having directed “SoundSpace” since its beginnings in 2011, Steve Parker said “SoundSpace” is different than a typical museum experience because of the cross disciplinary performances playing simultaneously throughout the Blanton Museum. Parker said the audience can gain from this experience by having the freedom to explore the galleries of the museum while interacting with the musicians.  

An event that is a blend of aspects from traditional concerts and the customary museum visits, Bennett said “SoundSpace” affects an audience at a different level than other artistic or musical events. 

“‘SoundSpace’ is not a concert with a fixed location, like other concerts in Austin. It’s partly a musical concert, focusing on the sound, but it also focuses also the space,” Bennett said. “The performances are very visual as well. They are somewhat theatrical and are a blend of performance art and concert, rather than just a band playing while the crowd cheers.” 

Andrew Sigler, a PHD candidate at the Butler School of Music at UT as well as one of the musicians being featured at “SoundSpace,” said this event offers a more welcoming experience for those who don’t understand classical music or traditional art. 

“What’s interesting about ‘SoundSpace’ is that it puts the audience in a position to experience the music on their own terms in a way I don’t think they are able to in a concert setting,” Sigler said. “Especially with classical music. This concert is post-classical, so the music draws a lot from pop and rock; immediately the concert might be more accessible to someone who doesn’t listen to the sometimes more difficult classical music.” 

While the museum setting is a novel place to listen to music, Parker said it’s an exciting and rare experience for the performers as well. A trombone player, Parker has performed at past “SoundSpace” events and understands the experience firsthand. 

“The space is an incredibly inspiring venue in which to perform. I like that audiences can observe the performance just inches away, and have the freedom to inspect the performance from a variety of angles,” Parker said. “I find it much easier to connect with listeners that way, in contrast to a recital hall or concert stage.”  

Sigler said this interaction between the performers and the audience is what creates such a compelling experience for the viewer while absorbing the art and the music. 

“I think all art, whether visual or oral such as music, ultimately happens in the head of the listener,” Sigler said. “If you’re in a museum, and you have a particular piece of visual art that may stimulate you in a certain way, and music that stimulates you in a certain way, that’s going to have a completely different impact than if you were listening to the music at home, or if you were at the museum, quietly looking at the art work alone.” 

Published on March 7, 2013 as "Blanton overflows with musical masterpieces".