In June 2015 I was artist in residence at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The theme of my residency was Musical Anatomy, exploring the connection between music and the body. I offered visitors two different ways to feel connected to an instrument, listening from inside the sound: The Overtone Crown and the Somatic Percussion Station.

“The whole thing starts shimmering.”

The Overtone Crown is a wearable instrument. It’s a helmet with eight tuning forks radiating out from it. I play it with a violin bow as the listener wears it on their head. As I play the crown, the listener looks at my drawing called The Auracle. This is a life-size piece which both visualizes the sonic experience of the Crown, and serves as a mirror for the listener. Here are some reactions to this experience recorded over the course of the month.

“I felt like a personified mountain.”

I also offered visitors the opportunity to feel connected to an instrument using a somatic percussion station. The listener sits with a floor tom against their legs, a Himalayan bowl at their feet, and two cymbals right next to their ears. Very low overtones are audible from the cymbals only at this close range. As the listener holds the cymbal stands with their hands, I play the instruments quietly with soft mallets. The listener hears not just through the ears, but through the skin and bone conduction as well. They are surrounded by sound and centered in the musical experience. Here are some reactions to this experience recorded over the course of the month, beginning with a man who is deaf in one ear.


Robbie Sweeny de Young reception_17

Photos by Robbie Sweeny.

This post originally appeared on Periscope Project, the online component of my de Young residency.