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The Sound of Silence?

On a recent, sunny weekday afternoon, the Olympic Sculpture Park is buzzing with visitors—Japanese tourists, lunching professionals, families with kids. A young woman meanders up the path parallel to Elliott Avenue and stops at a pair of orange metal headphones bolted to the wall. She sits down and sticks her head between the cartoonish bells and hears a low, course roar. Is that the sound of the Sound? Or traffic noise? Both—she’s hearing ambient sounds funneled through a pipe and into the headphones. “Silence?” as this sonic enigma is called, is one of three interactive listening stations recently unveiled at OSP, all part of artist Trimpin’s installation You Are Hear.

“Of course there is no silence anymore on this planet,” Trimpin says. “It’s always mixed with ambient sounds. So you’re actually listening to naturally amplified sounds piped in from the streets.”

The other two stations are “Sound,” which pipes in the sound of gravel falling through a teetering PVC tube; and “Music,” in which listeners hear the piped-in sound of a toy piano, stationed nearby, set to auto-play.

“These three elements are the focus of your perception when you go to the park and listen,” says Trimpin. “This makes you take off your personal headphones and sit in another headphone configuration and think about what’s going on around us. It’s awareness of ambient sounds, not just what’s coming form the smart phone.”

The German-born, Seattle-dwelling sound artist says he was inspired by the Sculpture Park’s location, on the fringe where the city meets the Sound.

“Standing in this particular spot on the wall, I was confronted with the ambient sounds of today’s urban environment—train sounds, car sounds, sirens. And looking one way you see this gorgeous view to the Olympic Mountains and you turn around and you’re facing the facades of houses and skyscrapers.”

Pervading it all, sound unifies the landscape. Which is music to Trimpin’s ears. “I don’t see any difference, really. Music is sound and sound is music.”

 

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