Spark follows sound artist Loren Chasse as he scavenges for unique acoustic environments from which he uses found objects in a variety of techniques such as dragging, rubbing, or striking them together. Chasse then takes this vast repertoire of sounds back to his studio to manipulate into layers of sound, placing multiple recordings together or complementing them with previously recorded clips, creating soundscapes that are evocative of another place or perhaps even planet.
The origin of sound art dates back to the early 1900s, when artists responded to the intense changes in the urban landscape by embracing the mechanical noises around, using the world as their instruments to create pieces celebrating industry. Chasse works like a visual artist, creating a palette of unique and interesting sounds from the natural world to create sonic landscapes. As part of the movement of experimental and free music, Chasse explores unlikely sources for sound, such as industrial ruins, natural environments, and simple common objects used in unlikely ways. Using his microphone as an extension of his ear, Chasse makes acoustical portraits of places and things we might otherwise never hear.
At the heart of Chasse’s work is his interest in and ability to listen. Using his sound locations as both the instrument and the studio, Chasse looks for particularly resonant and acoustical situations that are reflected in a peculiar way. Like many artists who push the boundaries of traditional art forms, Chasse is continuously drawn to seek new acoustic possibilities, and he is continually searching for new venues and modes of self-expression. Chasse has completed many aural projects and has worked with many other artists and bands, such as Thuja and idBattery. His work is also becoming increasingly popular to exhibit in visual art galleries as part of the ever-blurring line between visual art and other forms of creative expression.
Chasse credits his work with young people for helping him recognize the importance of listening in the moment. It is important to just listen, Chasse believes, and not feel obliged to capture and preserve every sound on tape. This valuable lesson is one that he passes on to his students as a teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District. Chasse is also the Director of Education of the sound arts collective called 23five, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the awareness of sound in the public arena.
Also, in this Spark story follow Chasse and a group of young people from the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts’ summer camp as they take a “listening hike,” an outdoor search for and exploration of sounds. Under Chasse’s guidance, the students gain first-hand experience of the physics of sound as they explore how the near poetic qualities of listening awaken the imagination.