August 6, 2010


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We Were There: Andrew Bird at the Guggenheim
by John Del Signore

Gothamist reviews Andrew Bird & Ian Schneller's Sonic Arboretum at the Guggenheim Museum 2010 Though it may have seemed that the whole hep world was at Madison Square Garden last night, there was another major sold out event spinning in the indie rock solar system. As part of the Guggenheim’s ongoing “Dark Sounds” series, Andrew Bird and sculptor/artist/engineer Ian Schneller debuted their collaborative project, the Sonic Arboretum. The mostly instrumental show was commissioned to accompany the exhibition Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance, which is currently on view at the museum through September 6th.

Anyone who showed up last night hoping to hear some of Bird’s transporting, pop anthems would have left disappointed. Though we’d be lying if we said we weren’t hankering for at least a “Lull,” this performance didn’t touch on Bird’s more familiar repertoire. Bird, a beatifically talented violinist, guitarist, glockenspiel player, whistler, and singer, performed in the rotunda surrounded by a “prairie” of dozens of 3-foot tall “hornlings,” a “forest” of four 8-foot tall horns, and a two-headed spinning speaker horn. The music was amplified solely through these sonic sculptures, which resemble Victrola speakers and are designed by Schneller, a renowned designer of custom guitars, tube amplifiers and audio horn speakers.

Gothamist reviews Andrew Bird & Ian Schneller's Sonic Arboretum at the Guggenheim Museum 2010Bird’s swirling, looping orchestrations filled the rotunda from top to bottom like a bubble bath, and served as an ideal accompaniment to the exhibit, a mysterious, brooding collection of photographs, many from abandoned or forgotten locales, like Ori Gersht’s Chromogenic print “Unknown Land,” an amorphous depiction of a Holocaust site in the Ukraine; or Walead Beshty’s accidentally damaged photographs of the deserted Iraqi Embassy in East Berlin, a relic of an extinct government in the province of another extinct government. Strolling up the rotunda as the lush melodies spiraled all the way up to the skylight, it was silently agreed by all in attendance that Andrew Bird should be the Guggenheim’s house band in perpetuity.

see more images from the Guggenheim show