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Audium: "Sound Sculptured Space"

February 21, 2009

Audium has been on my to do list for a while now, and I finally was able to check it off last night.


I really didn’t know what to expect. The site basically gives you a little history, how much it costs ($15), and what time to be there (8:15p).

Nestled in Pac Heights, you enter the odd looking space and pay- cash only!- for your ticket. As you walk into the ‘waiting room’, you are treated to a sneak hear at what awaits you, as the sixties mod style space is sparsely decorated with crafty art projects that generate the sounds.

Then, like Willy Wonka, an elderly man appears from the space pod-like entrance to the theater and gives a short spiel about what you about to experience. He mentions that the sounds may invoke memories or dreams, along with the standard silence your cell phones announcement.

We enter the circular theater, where folding chairs are lined up in circular rows. Shortly after taking our seats among the 30 or so people, the lights slowly dim away, and the sounds begin. To be honest, at first I had a hard time not cracking up, because the whole thing is a bit odd. But then I relaxed and got lost in the sound. There were morning noises, horses trotting, water, xylophones, thunder…lots of different things coming from everywhere. I knew that I used sound to orient myself, but after awhile I did experience a bit of vertigo…in a good way. At first, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in a Kubrick film. Then, the memories really started coming in for me. I think my mind was forcing visualizations into the experience. They were really weird and random memories, too. I thought, this is really cool, because when you go to see a film, or a concert, or even an art museum- sure, everyone experiences it differently, but I can imagine that at this place, everyone experiences it in radically different ways.

There was a short 5 minute ‘intermission’ where the lights gradually came back on, but no one left. As they dimmed again, I was reminded that the person behind me was a serious fidgeter, and it was screwing with my mojo. It was in this second half, which began with a voice saying slightly nonsensical things like “micro, macro, tuttle, tobo…” that I had my epiphany.

When I was a teenager, I used to buy a CD, go home, and listen to it lying in bed, or next to the speaker. Even in the car on the way home from the record store. Either way, it was a very intense, focused experience, similar to what Audium is. And I never do that anymore. I listen to things on my laptop, or ipod, or iphone, piecemeal, and while doing something else. And that made me really sad. It made me want to go home and re-listen to my favorite albums of the past 10 years in a dark room with candles.

The lights came up again. After an hour of listening to sounds and reviewing my recreated memories, the visuals of the room were disappointing at best. Me & my imagination…

Audium is an hour long experience that isn’t for everyone. I imagine that it makes some people uncomfortable, others bored, others fall asleep, but for some, it is a relaxing, insightful ride.

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