Schubert Sound Installation at Mead Art Museum

Sounding Space Experience Beautifully Dissects Masterpiece

Visitors to the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA, are now surrounded, not just by art, but by the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828), in a sound installation that opens Tuesday, Aug. 26, and runs until Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. This special installation features a five-channel recording of the slow movement from Schubert’s Cello Quintet (1828), played by the Brentano String Quartet and Michael Kannen, director of chamber music at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. The quintet’s second movement, approximately 16 minutes long, plays once every half hour.

Special Sound Installation Featuring Schubert’s Cello Quintet at Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA.

Five speakers are arranged in an oval configuration in the Mead’s Rotherwas Room, the ornately carved seventeenth-century English room that serves as a gallery, event and performance space, and reading room. Each speaker is dedicated to one instrument from the ensemble, which includes two violins, viola, and two cellos.

“Visitors can walk among the speakers, choosing whether to listen to a single instrument, pairs of instruments, or all of them together,” said Jenny L. Kallick, professor of music and chair of the Music Department at Amherst College. Kallick is the project director for the Amherst Schubert Project, a multipart fall-semester event.

The Rotherwas Room is a superb venue for the sound installation for many reasons, Kallick said. “Amherst musicians have regularly played concerts in the warm, resonant space of the Rotherwas Room. This same acoustic will entice visitors to explore the room, filled with speakers, and experience the surprise of hearing the music change color, and even mood, depending on where one stands.”

Kallick added, “Sometimes we forget that our reception of sound and music is deeply influenced by changes in the perceived acoustics of a space. The intimacy of this particular space, coupled with its changing light, creates a rather perfect ‘sounding space’ experience.”

The sound-installation opening is the first in a series of Schubert-related events on the Amherst College campus. It is followed by four screenings — Thursday through Sunday, September 11-14, 2014, at 7pm — of A Late Quartet (2012), starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, which features a soundtrack by the Brentano Quartet.

The Schubert Project culminates in a weekend devoted to a live recording of the Schubert Cello Quintet and an accompanying symposium exploring aspects of Schubert’s Quintet with recitals, lectures, and conversations held Friday through Sunday, September 19-21, 2014. The weekend celebration kicks off with a reception at the Mead, with the Brentano Quartet and Michael Kannen, on Friday, September 19, at 3:30pm The reception is free and open to the public.

In September 2014, the Brentano Quartet became Yale University’s Quartet-in-Residence. Founded in 1992, the musicians perform across the United States and around the world. Prior to its appointment at Yale, the quartet was the Resident String Quartet at Princeton University. The music department at Amherst College has had a long association with the quartet that has included a two-year teaching residency and over a dozen appearances in the “Music at Amherst” concert series. Members of the Brentano are Misha Amory, viola; Serena Canin, violin; Nina Lee, cello; and Mark Steinberg, violin. Michael Kannen, cellist, was a founding member of the Brentano Quartet.

Situated in the vibrant Five Colleges academic community in Western Massachusetts, the Mead Art Museum serves as a laboratory for interdisciplinary research and innovative teaching involving original works of art. An accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums, the Mead participates in Museums10, a regional cultural collaboration. The museum and its gift shop & café are open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round, and until midnight on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday during the academic term. For more information, including a searchable catalogue of the collection and a complete schedule of exhibitions and events, visit our website, www.amherst.edu/mead.

– Submitted by Rachel Rogol

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