The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin will become the first major museum to create a space dedicated to ‘sound art’, following a $5m gift from Ernest and Sarah Butler.
The Butler Sound Gallery will be a park-style area on the museum campus. It is part of the Blanton’s grounds revitalisation project, led by international design firm Snøhetta and set for completion in late 2022.
The outdoor gallery will open with an installation currently called Landscape Soundings by sound art pioneer Bill Fontana that features recordings of Texas wildlife.
“Our new outdoor Butler Sound Gallery, which is an important part of the new grounds initiative on which we broke ground in March 2021, will change the way people encounter and experience the museum,” said Simone Wicha, director of the Blanton.
“For me, it felt especially important to launch this project with an artist whose work will not only surprise us and help us see more clearly through sound, but also will create a time capsule that captures the beauty and wonder of our rapidly changing world.”
Landscape Soundings will use an immersive, multi-channel Meyer sound system. Fontana plans to travel across Central Texas during each of the four seasons to capture the natural sounds of the region.
Fontana has already recorded expeditions to Bracken Cave in San Antonio and Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. The artist is interested in recording birds, bats and other wildlife, as well as sounds associated with the region’s geological features.
“We are proud to underwrite this innovative outdoor sound gallery at the museum and have it named in our honor,” said Ernest and Sarah Butler.
$5m gift to create ‘sound sculptures’
“It is exciting to imagine the beautiful, unexpected, and powerful experiences that students
and visitors will have with sound art as they explore the museum’s new grounds.”
Fontana’s 2019 work, titled Sequoia River Echoes, involved mounting high-resolution vibration sensors to tree trunks at Sequoia National Park to record the rhythm of the Kaweah River.
“At the heart of this sound sculpture is my dedication to listening and belief that the act of listening is a way of making music,” Fontana said.
Images: Blanton Museum of Art