The museum is a sacred space revered by its members for the privilege to engage in a dialogue with works of art. Los Angeles based composer and sound designer Paul Fraser has reconsidered our relationship to spaces like the Getty Museum and designed sound pieces to engage the community in a performance outside of the building so that the structure becomes its own art work.
The travertine tiles that line the exterior of the Getty have varying timbres and intonations and were a continued source of inspiration. Fraser formed the Travertine Ensemble with Machine Project director Mark Allen and then assembled a group of four composers to collaborate and create a diverse set of compositions on a designated travertine wall at the Getty Center last year for the Family Festival. In literally playing the museum by hitting the travertine tiles with maleates, the Travertine Ensemble created and filmed a site-specific sound piece that makes a bold statement using the faintest of notes. The Ensemble performed five new pieces and a group piece three times throughout the day and each performance invited a new experience. The participants in the group pieces changed for each performance and the interaction with the audience varied depending on how many children or adults were present. The Ensemble speaks to Fraser’s philosophy that drives his musical practice and that is as the artist puts it, “placing trust in the collective contributions of a group in order to make sound art. The ideas that a hive mind can create often yield more interesting and surprising outcomes.”
Another evidence of Fraser’s signature “surprising outcomes” is his ability to find a common thread in seemingly disparate source material, in works such as the sound collage February 7. 22 people were invited to share the last piece of sound they heard on that date and Fraser extracted a pulse from the material and made it musical. “There is usually a sound that jumps out as potentially being the ‘crux’ of the piece,” he explains. “I typically find a number of commonalities among the sound sources. Some of them by chance be they in the same key or have similar rhythm or contain a line of spoken text that I particular like.” The sound collages are whimsical and experimental explorations of Southern California culture that examine the sounds our institutions make and the audio files that transmit over the airwaves.