John Morton’s sound installations have graced public parks, village greens, pedestrian bridges, historic and industrial sites, libraries, and now the Morris Museum with “Sound Garden,” through Feb. 24 in the Main Gallery.
Morton has spent his life immersed in sound. As a composer, his passion is to make musical connections between unintentional events. Simple things like bird song masked by a passing truck, a creak in a floor, or “the very specific envelope of dissolve” made by the slamming of a hot dog cart lid, are among his inspirations.
“Sound Garden” consists of two interactive, sound-immersive installations. If we’re often advised to “stop and smell the roses,” Morton asks us to stop and listen to them and to all the other auditory splendors that we take for granted or are too busy to hear. He crafts these moments into “sonic events” and weaves them into fluid, expansive, and user-friendly experiences.
“Fever Songs” is a sonic installation that weaves together the vocal traditions of many religions. “Devoid of doctrine, ‘Fever Songs’ brings together the commonality of the human ecstatic experience,” explains John Morton. Viewers enter the space and are surrounded by a circle of nine audio speakers that emit four diverse spiritual songs along with scriptural text for solo voices. The music and voices are sonically altered by ever-changing computer processing controlled by four motion-activated sensors in the middle speaker.
The second installation, “The Voyage Out,” is a collaboration with figurative sculptor Jacqueline Shatz, who also works in other media. The two have partnered together on other projects. “The Voyage Out,” is a sonic and visual meditation on Charles Darwin’s legendary five-year voyage circumnavigating the globe aboard the HMS Beagle, which informed his scientific masterwork, “On the Origin of Species” (1859).
Admission to the exhibit is free for museum members and $10 for non-members.