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Seeing With Your Ears: Sound in Sculpture

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

By Brittany Worthington, Marketing Student Assistant

Wall Drawing #520

While many people have the opportunity to see a piece of art, fewer get the opportunity to hear one. But that is exactly the point of Sound in Sculpture, an annual event in which University of Texas students from the Butler School of Music compose a piece of music inspired by or in dialogue with a piece of artwork that is part of Landmarks, the university’s public art collection.

The third-annual Sound in Sculpture will feature compositions inspired by three pieces of artwork: Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #520, an ink wash wall coloring of what appears to be floating cubes; LeWitt’s Circle of Towers, a concrete block sculpture; and Casey Reas’ A Mathematical Theory of Communication, an abstract mural of mathematically processed television images.

Six student composers will be participating this year, and for some, the process of musical adaptation provided an exciting challenge. Jake Wohleb, whose piece “Simple Instructions, Complex Interpretation” is inspired by LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #520, discussed the connection between himself and the artist: “I really found Sol LeWitt’s process very interesting. He pretty much designs a blueprint and other people realize the art for him. I was thinking about how we relate to that as musicians. As a composer, I write instructions for other musicians to play so I thought it was very natural for me to write a piece based off of that.”

While Wohleb has written music based off of artwork in the past, he said this instance was different in the way he based his composition off the idea of the art, rather than the art itself. For example, rather than focusing on aspects such as the art’s colors or shapes as he did when he was inspired by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” he instead focused on LeWitt’s interest in the minimalist movement, trying to marry complexity with simplicity. 

Though this is Wohleb’s first time composing for Sound in Sculpture, it’s not his first time participating. Last year he performed as a musician. Besides not having to lug heavy instruments around with him, Wohleb is enjoying his new role. “It’s just really cool to develop that kind of relationship with art. It’s a very unique opportunity. It’s coolest thing to me is to run over to the computer science building and be able to see where I’m going with the piece.”

You can see and hear Wohleb's “Simple Instructions, Complex Interpretation” this Friday and Saturday as part of the 2018 Fusebox Festival.

Sound in Sculpture - Premiere
The Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex & Dell Computer Science Hall
Fri, Apr 20, 6:30 pm

Sound in Sculpture - Encore
Butler School of Music Recital Studio, MRH 2.608
Sat, Apr 21, 6:30 pm