Sound Scene is a Multi-Sensory Festival for D.C. Audiophiles


On a daily basis, people are inundated with a cacophony of sound: car horns, sirens, music–the list goes on. Most people don’t think twice about these noises, but a local audio collective turns these seemingly ordinary sounds into a compelling narrative. This Saturday at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture GardenDC Listening Lounge will showcase their works at Sound Scene, a festival that explores the concept of sound through interactive audio installations, workshops, and live music. For its tenth year, the festival will center around the topic of ‘dissonance.’

“We’re living in a very politically dissonant time, and I think it would be a real missed opportunity for artists not to use the tools we have to explore some of those challenges,” said DC Listening Lounge member and Sound Scene organizer Jocelyn Frank. “There are a number of pieces this year that reflect different artists’ experiences with the political situation.”

The politically-inspired exhibits at this year’s Sound Scene are “Elsewhere,” which profiles the sounds experienced by refugees leaving their homelands, and “Siren City,” an audio iPad feature that explores both the aural dissonance of police sirens as well as the corresponding metaphorical dissonance between communities and police.

Another is the “Peace Bells,” made by Chicago artist Elliot Bergman. The bells themselves are made from melted guns and bullets, transforming instruments of violence to instruments of aural beauty.

“[Sound Scene] began as an opportunity to take the nuggets we were enjoying [at our monthly [DC Listening Lounge] meetings] and celebrate them in a public sphere,” said Frank.

While Sound Scene is taking on a more political tone this year, it still retains a large element of experimentation and fun. In “Sonic Twister,” players create dissonance as they step on each colored circle and activate a different sound. “Motorized Audio” features 8-10 variable speed DC motors controlled by the audience.

While visitors will get to hear audio through various “traditional” formats, they will also get to explore sound through more unconventional platforms. Irish artist Grace Digney will use an eidophone to capture a visual shape to sound. There’s also a full body listening station that all guests–including the hearing impaired–can experience.

Besides installations, Sound Scene will also host several live music performances throughout the day from locals Layne GarrettThe National Symphony Orchestra and Pan Lara.

For the members of DC Listening Lounge, the elements of Sound Scene are an opportunity to reach out to the community and get them thinking about what they’re hearing and how they’re hearing it. “Hearing is an under-appreciated sense,” said Frank, “and that’s what brings us together.”

Sound Scene will take place on Saturday, July 8 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. FREE