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LA State Historic Park Becomes An Invisible Sound Machine With Virtual Art Installation

A display with the map for Score For Here at the Los Angeles State Historic Park, supported by metal beams embedded in the grass lawn, near a dirt path. The shadow of a tree is in the background.
The map shows how Jimena Sarno designed the soundscape for Score For Here, all intermixed symbols showing how sound interacts with the physical landscape.
(Courtesy Jimena Sarno)
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It isn’t every day that you get to compose a piece of music by simply walking, but now’s your chance. Artist Jimena Sarno’sScore for Here” installation, which opened this past weekend, allows visitors at downtown's Los Angeles State Historic Park to compose sound in real time as they stroll around the grounds.

Walking into different parts of the park triggers a different sound from Sarno’s collection — such as an old out-of-tune piano from a home in Thailand, a broken faucet from Buenos Aires, and a man working as a mattress cleaner in Iran announcing that he was coming around.

The sounds come from artists, writers, poets, and others from around the world, who gave Sarno soundbites, songs and field recordings that made them feel connected to their land. Sarno is originally from Buenos Aires herself.

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You can access the sounds via a free app on your phone, which you can find thanks to QR codes on-site.

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Listen: one of the otherworldy sounds gathered by Jimena Sarno for Score For Here

Sarno modified all of the sounds through an audio processing technique known as granular synthesis.

“It's basically putting a sound in a blender and then reconfiguring the order and the quality of each of the parts,” Sarno said. “I was interested in not falling into a nostalgic playlist, but rather, sticking with the intimate connection of each person to their chosen sounds.”

Artist Jimena Sarno's headshot. She has close cropped hair on the sides, longer on top, and looks to the camera with her head slightly to her left. She has a nose ring and wears a black T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
Artist Jimena Sarno.
(Courtesy the artist)

Visitors end up with a distinct, layered score based on their unique movements. As you move away from the path, you’ll find more layers of sound. Those might be beneath certain trees, on top of a boulder, or through certain “desire paths” created where people take shortcuts that may not be officially designated or paved.

It’s a flip on traditional GPS navigation — instead of the navigation telling you where to go, your own movements tell the app what to create.

A sketched graphic map showing how sound interacts with the physical space in the artist's exhibition.
A portion of the graphic map, designed by Sarno, combining the physical space with the invisible spaces of various sounds.
(Courtesy artist Jimena Sarno)

Sarno doesn’t read music and doesn’t consider herself a musician, but has been working with sound for a while, she said. Her installations often re-contextualize sound, composing soundscapes that she uses to explore issues around power. Instead of using music, Sarno has created what she calls a “graphic score” with her own symbols, showing where all of the sounds would connect with the physical location of the park.

“I don’t want to call it music, although it is very musical at points,” Sarno said.

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The project is inspired by themes of erasure and the displacement of the park’s original inhabitants, the Tongva people.

“My main idea for this project was not to add any more material to the site,” Sarno said. “I wanted something that was ephemeral and immaterial.”

The project was commissioned by the arts nonprofit Clockshop prior to the pandemic, with sound collected over the past several years. The work itself will change over time — the app that generates the scores will remain available indefinitely as the sound bank continues to grow, according to Sarno.

However, the current iteration of the project is set to end Aug. 31.

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