Don’t Tune Out the Gardner Museum’s New Sound Art Installations

"Listen Hear: The Art of Sound" now echoes through Ruggles Station, the Back Bay Fens, and Northeastern.

The sounds of Northeastern University’s campus play from these speakers in Ruggles Station. / Photo by Alex Erdekian

For the first time in its 114-year history, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is showcasing work outside of its own walls.

The museum’s new exhibit, “Listen Hear: The Art of Sound” debuted two new installations last week (in addition to pieces already on view inside the museum’s walls), and you might have already encountered them without knowing it. The two new pieces are an installation and a smartphone app, both of which explore the effect of the interaction of sound and space in urban landscapes.

The public installation “Harmonic Conduits” connects two of these urban landscapes through their sounds. Ruggles Station and Haley House Bakery Café in Lower Roxbury each have the sounds of their environments recorded, and then transmitted to each other through “tuning tubes” and played aloud live. Additionally, sounds from Northeastern University’s campus will play at the Roxbury side of Ruggles station. “Harmonic Conduits” is a collaboration between the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Northeastern University, Haley House Bakery Café, and the MBTA, and it was created by sound artists Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger.

The sounds of Haley House Bakery Café play from outside of Ruggles Station. / Photo by Alex Erdekian

“Now that spring has finally arrived, we hope everyone will take the time to listen and experience the way sound and space interact in our environment,” says Pieranna Cavalchini, the Gardner Museum’s contemporary art curator.

The second offsite installation of “Listen Hear” is an interactive sound walk through the Back Bay Fens. To experience it, download the location-based free app called Fens, plug in your headlines, and stroll through the Fens while listening to the human and non-human sounds that define the area—from bits of speech, to animal noises, to rushing water. Fens was created by Teri Rueb and Ernst Karel.

Here’s a preview:


“Listen Hear” will run through September 5.