Cover image: Crowd at Kirtan with the Bhakti Center. © Sarah Monahan for WhereNYC
When first walking into The Rubin Museum of Art to enter the newest exhibition, The World Is Sound, visitors are immediately asked to take part in the imagination of sound. Before entering the elevator onto the sixth floor, one question establishes our expectations for the exhibit: What is the first sound you remember?
An odd sense of nostalgia overcame me as I tried to search for my own personal answer to that question, an answer that I wasn’t sure I could articulate as definite. How does one remember sound when they have no concept of what those sounds mean?
When thinking about my experience, it wasn’t something I instinctually heard, but rather something seen and felt. The soothing vibrations of my mother’s voice as I fell asleep on her chest, the light from under the doorframe flickering to the footsteps and muffled hums of voices outside, while I curiously listened from a crib in a dark room.
The World Is Sound asks us to interact with sound as a universal, multisensory experience. Touching the walls of the gallery to listen to mantras sung by monks visitors got lost in the chanting of the collective Om in an immersive sound installation room. Tibetan culture colored the rituals of sound while a scientific explanation behind resonant sound in our universe, maintained a tangible understanding of it. The exhibit itself poses a new question when leaving: What is the lasting effect or sound of the universe’s creation?
The exhibit was the perfect foundation for entering the annual block party, Sounds of the Street, which took place in front of the museum last Sunday, July 16th.
From the tranquil submersion of the sounds inside the museum to the energetic vibe of the streets, a universal vibration carried over. Children made their own music with pots and pans while artists on the sidewalks drew the sounds they were making.
Visitors of all ages and backgrounds enjoyed both exhibit and block party, thanks to the interactive nature of the event including various craft tables, meant to appeal to both children and adults.
Participants made art pieces from bubbles and constructed their own instruments from ordinary appliances. That inclusiveness was even available at the food trucks, like Van Leeuwen artisan ice cream, serving both classic and vegan options. Various flavors of food were available like Korilla Korean BBQ as well as the museum’s Café Serai dishing up Himalayan specialties along with wine and beer.
The day was full with plenty of food and constant entertainment. Performances by The Blue Angels Drumline and girls from the Tibetan Community of NY/NJ, kept the crowd actively listening during the event. Meditation spaces were available along with a silent disco booth, providing individuals with isolation amongst the street.
In the final unifying moments of the event, a kirtan concert with the Bhakti Center perfectly emphasized the purpose of participating in sound.
“A kirtan is never performed alone,” Bhakti Center told the crowd as they collectively reached towards the sky, thanking the street and New York City for the constant vibrations of the day.
Regardless of belief or perspective in one’s awareness of listening, many understood that sounds are most certainly felt by all.
For more information on exhibits and upcoming events, please visit the Rubin Museum of Art.