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The Murder of Crows

A sound installation recently presented at the Park Avenue Armoury, The Murder of the Crows by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller was one of the most incredible installations I have seen recently. Set in the drill hall of the armory,  a space of 55,000-square-feet, the installation was just a tiny proportion of the space. The lights were off, and from what I could tell, the entire space was painted black so that nothing could be seen except for the dimly lit space that was set up to sit and experience the work.

Ninety-eight professional sound speakers, standing on minimal posts, and suspended from wires from the vaulted steel roof, an incredibly cacophony of sound emanated from them. There were folding chairs in a circle, and in the center was a speaker sitting on the table, an antique one that looked like it had been taken from one of Edison’s original audio devices.

Photo: James Ewing

The sounds were recorded on individual tracks, so as you moved around the installation, and around the space at large, a speaker might represent a single voice singing, or the sounds of crows in flight moved across multiple speakers, as if the birds were flying within the empty hall itself.

As I wandered around to experience it, I moved deep into the recesses, and found a large rack of servers/amplifiers far off to one side. The blinking red LED lights on the multiple boxes, possibly 40 or so, (I didn’t count) revealed the amount of technical effort and creative editing it took to design and execute the symphony.

At times haunting, the single speaker in the center held the voice of the artist recount vivid, horrible dreams. Other times a chorus of singers, each represented by a single speaker on a stand, you could walk up and hear an individual’s voice.

Photo: James Ewing

I feel so lucky to have experienced the work, and wonder how many of these types of events I miss every season in New York.

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