I met composer Michael Schumacher at last week's Issue Project Room party, where he told me about his Diapason Gallery, which he's been running since 2001. New York's only gallery dedicated to sound art (unless you count LaMonte Young's Dream House). Michael moved the gallery two years ago from Manhattan to Industry City in Sunset Park: a 16 building complex built at the turn of the 20th century that now houses a mix of manufacturing and artistic tenants.
When I arrived at the 10th floor gallery on Saturday, Michael welcomed me in, then started up his current installation, SPECTRUM. Using the same principle as Giorgio Magnanensi's visualization of sine waves,
After fifteen minutes or so in the main 12 channel "lounge" space, Michael invited me into the smaller "gallery" to the left of the entrance. He asked that I remove my shoes before entering, so as not to disturb the white carpeting. He turned on the 8 channel sound, I laid back against one of the throw pillows scattered about, and for the next 25 minutes the room became a compression chamber, a total immersion in sound and light. The experience was both soothing and energizing, and I emerged wide eyed and slightly dazed.
"People don't really think about sound as art," Michael told me after. "Most people don't understand the need for deep, focused listening, especially in this age of the iPod. I remember when I was growing up, my father used to sit in front of the radio and just listen. That never happens anymore. Most music these days is just background."
Of course, sound art thrives elsewhere, but having a permanent destination dedicated to the exploration of sound is both a precious and vital resource. Go check it out yourself some Saturday, and you'll see what I mean. (More pics below.)