Seeing sound: the gallery where the sonic dreams of the Soviet avant-garde live on

[From the Calvert Journal]

Soviet sponsorship for sonic research led to the invention of the first electronic instrument, the theremin, in 1920. In St Petersburg, the Floating Sound Gallery, Russia’s first sound-art platform, picks up where these avant-garde experiments left off.

A small space in the New Stage building of St Petersburg’s Alexandrinsky Theatre. Inside, the silhouettes of people seated in a circle of chairs are discernible through the darkness, as are the sounds of — no, not music, but a density of rasps and whistles, the experience so alien that it’s difficult to classify the event as a concert.

Some audience members close their eyes, engrossed in the sound; after 20 minutes of silent incomprehension, others gloomily get to their feet and leave, followed by those who aren’t quite as brave or decisive. An hour in and there’s only a handful of people left, who are brought back to reality by the gradual ebbing away of the sounds.

The light from two monitors standing in the corner illuminates the faces of two men. One of them, Anton Iakhontov (aka Patrick K.-H), ranks among Russia’s most successful sound and media artists. His colleague is Oleg Markov, a renowned composer, musician, sound artist, and editor of various contemporary music magazines. Together, they curate St Petersburg’s New Stage’s Floating Sound Gallery — Russia’s first sound-art platform.

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