Christian Schaeffer, DJ of Sound Waves October 27 at The Pulitzer. Photograph courtesy of Christian Schaeffer.
By David B. Olsen, Gallery Assistant
Somehow, I never learned the exact physics of waves – or even, frankly, if “physics” was the right word to use with waves – but at some point in my life, I guess I invented an idea of how I wanted them to work. In my world, waves of sound never actually stopped oscillating, but simply grew into wider and increasingly less audible arcs, swelling, stretching, overlapping and bouncing lazily between the walls. Collecting in the corners. There was a certain comfort in this for me, believing that sound was always slowly making its way back to us if waited long enough. Lost conversations. Compliments. All the music ever. Sound never ended, I thought, but became a dense mesh of memory; it was still there even when we could no longer hear it.
Although I’ve since concluded that this is probably not the case, I cannot help but remember this fake scientific breakthrough whenever we host Sound Waves at the Pulitzer, for which we invite DJs from KDHX to curate playlists that respond to the exhibition, the architecture, and the night. Unlike our collaboration with the St. Louis Symphony, in which the music ascends upward from the lower main gallery, spinning out from a center, the sounds of Sound Waves seem somehow already there, waiting in the air, accumulating from unseen sources. As though clouds that drift and wander, melodies you may recognize, breaking through, only to be overlaid and diffused by something new. The last epiphanies, perhaps, before the close of the show.
This Saturday’s Sound Waves marks the final event of In The Still Epiphany, which has been on exhibition since April. (As a Gallery Assistant, I’ve jokingly found myself referring to the title with a heavier emphasis on the word still…) Working within the history of the Pulitzer family’s personal collection, guest curator Gedi Sibony composed a massive, narrative exhibition that at once embraced and challenged notions of what one literally expects to find in a gallery. From the welcome introduction of the portraits in the entrance gallery to the unlikely and sometimes seemingly secretive discoveries within the metaphorical house that follows, In The Still Epiphany interacts with and inaugurates a journey within Tadao Ando’s architecture in a way that, according to the text piece provided by Sibony for the catalogue, asks us to be surrounded by time: “Our own task is to go from the world of people and interactions to a frozen fictional world. […] And there is the one to whom meanwhile is occurring around her.” To me, the experience of Sound Waves is one way to feel this “meanwhile,” as the music – waiting at our arrival, having already been happening – holds us in a momentary middle.
Sibony’s vision for the show finds a final musical counterpoint and compatriot in Saturday night’s guest DJ Christian Schaeffer, the host of the radio show Collector’s Edition on KDHX, which alternately explores and adds to the archives of the station’s years of in-studio performances. As an educator and a music journalist as well, Schaeffer has a keen mind for the way in which the practice of playing music takes on a complex set of responsibilities, as well as the “shared vocabulary” between art forms. According to Schaeffer, “ Gedi Sibony’s own work plays with minimalism, but his curatorial duties in this show show range and history. I think that’s a good place to start for any DJ – how do you pull from 100 years of recorded music and place songs side by side? To me, Sibony’s task is both interpreter of this collection and a kind of storyteller with his juxtapositions – the inclusions and exclusions.”
As Schaeffer cues his own choice of sounds and silences on the exhibition – attuned at once to the building and to “the room,” a sense of the crowd’s response as real-time curatorial – it is not difficult to start imagining the layers and webs of waves that I once imagined constituted all former sound. So too does the faint electricity of bodies moving around the gallery add to the ephemeral density of these last final waves. Guests coming in and coming back. Returning. Retracing steps in an inevitably new light. And finally, in the end, receding. Waving goodbye.
Please join us for Sound Waves at the Pulitzer. Saturday, October 27 from 6:00-9:00 PM.