Berklee Student Records MBTA Tunnels for College's First Public Sound Installation
Chelsea Southard, who graduates from Berklee College of Music this month, launched the college’s first student-driven public art installation for her final thesis project as an electronic production and design student. Entitled Things Over Time, the installation, housed in a PODS shipping container at 1140 Boylston Street, is the first sonic documentation of the long-abandoned “Tremont Tunnels,” the country’s first subway tunnels. The immersive environment—created with blown glass, natural and LED lighting, and original sound—explores human agency and its relationship to the material world. Things Over Time is open to the public through August 15.
“Since access to the tunnels under Tremont Street is highly restricted, I decided to displace the sonic environment above ground, making the space accessible and public,” Southard said. “With the support of the MBTA, and through countless emails, permits, insurance documents, and an eight-hour right-of-way safety training for me and my small team, I was able to gain access to this historic location and capture the sounds needed to recreate the environment on the streets of Boston.”
Southard recorded 360-degree ambiances, impulse responses, environment interaction, and instruments in the forgotten MBTA tunnels. The sonic portrait generated from these recordings is produced by a series of algorithms triggered by the real-time arrivals and departures in the Boylston Street MBTA station, located above the abandoned tunnels. Also completing an artist-in-residency at the Diablo Glass School in Roxbury Crossing, Southard, with a small team of other glass artists, created overblown glass spheres that were then broken, and the shards, typically considered trash in a glass studio, were affixed to the walls of the container. A participant in the Berklee Interdisciplinary Arts Institute, Southard used the different media to create an immersive environment within the PODS container.
A native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Southard grew up among a landscape of forgotten buildings and other relics of the steel boom. An avid urban explorer, having traversed the Rust Belt and Eastern Europe to investigate abandoned and historic locales, Southard’s fascination with the process of time and its effects on the physical landscape of our environment and our memories continues with Things Over Time.
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