Shining a light on sound

By Bernheim

Bernheim’s Claude Stephens helped bring this program to life and provides opening announcements at each event.

As the year draws to a close and I reflect upon the diverse programs that fall under Arts in Nature at Bernheim, there is one in particular that I would like to shine a light upon. SONICBernheim, our lecture and sound art performance series curated by Aaron Rosenblum and Sara Louise Callaway, had another big year of adventurous programming featuring artists and academics who explore the relationship of sound, music and the natural world. Each SONICBernheim event takes place at a different location throughout the arboretum and provides the opportunity to explore the landscape accompanied by featured sound works! These biannual events almost always take place in conjunction with a full moon which makes for an even more beautiful experience as darkness falls upon us and the moon rises far from the light polluted skies of an urban environment.

Wu Fei and her enchanting gezhung.


Examples from this year’s programming include a powerful performance by classically trained composer Wu Fei: who is a master of the guzheng, the ancient 21-string Chinese instrument. She entranced the audience as she played beautifully in the instrument’s vernacular; a musical language which is at least 2,000 years old, but in a contemporary idiosyncratic, experimental dialect.

Professor David G Haskell, lecturing about his book “The Songs of Trees“. Photo by John Nation.





David G Haskell, Professor of Biology at Sewanee lectured on the topic of his latest book, “The Songs of Trees”, which examines the ways, sonic and otherwise, that trees and humans are connected.

We also saw the premiere of an innovative new piece by Louisville composer, sound artist, and software engineer Connor Waldman. The piece uses software and synthesis to turn live earthquake data from the US Geological Survey into an ever-shifting piece of music, which ran to 4 separate speakers placed on the porch of the education center.


As with most sound art works, this was one to best experience in person.  For those who couldn’t make it, I included a small except from Conner Waldman‘s “Limited Samples of an Endless Routine” created for computer and synthesizer below.  Turn off the lights, turn up the sound and imagine yourself sitting on the hill of the education center!



Limited Samples of an Endless Routine


With generous support from Great Meadows Foundation, curators Sara and Aaron, delivered a paper on their experiences curating SONICBernheim at the Invisible Places conference in Sao Miguel, Azores (Portugal) this past April!  Their presentation addressed the challenges and successes of bringing sound art programming (more often found in larger U.S. cities) to a diverse audience just outside of the greater Louisville area. This amazing experience allowed them to make deep connections with others around the world who are working in similar fields and they returned to Kentucky with new insights, knowledge, and inspiration for future programming.




Bernheim couldn’t be more proud of Sara Louise Callaway and Aaron Rosenblum for all their hard work in making SONICBernheim the successful Arts in Nature program it has become, connecting large audiences to nature, through the lens of sound art! We are looking to expand this program and have some exciting ideas we will be sharing with you in the new year.

Photos in this post were taken by Mary Hellen York Nunn unless specified otherwise or taken at Invisible Places.

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