At the height of musical modernism, the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen conceived a spherical concert hall — the Kugelauditorium — that would surround its audience with dozens of meticulously arranged speakers for an entirely new kind of listening experience.
A form of it came to life at the 1970 World Expo in Osaka, Japan, where Germany’s pavilion presented works written for the Buckminster Fuller-esque dome, including music by Stockhausen himself. Hundreds of thousands of people visited it, but the idea never caught on.
Next month, though, the Shed in Manhattan will erect the Sonic Sphere, a modern realization of Stockhausen’s idea, with listening events and interdisciplinary concerts, the performing arts center announced on Tuesday.
Alex Poots, the Shed’s artistic director, said in an interview that as he worked with Stockhausen earlier in his career, they often talked about the Kugelauditorium and about “centering the auditory experience.”
“We talk about going to see concerts, when we’re probably going to hear them more than we see them,” Poots added. “The idea of centering the sound — I find that fascinating.”
This iteration of the Sonic Sphere — the creation of a group founded by Ed Cooke, Merijn Royaards and Nicholas Christie — is the 11th and the largest, with a diameter of 65 feet and an audience capacity of roughly 250. Visitors will be surrounded by more than 100 speakers arranged throughout the geodesic frame, which will be suspended within the Shed’s cavernous McCourt space.
In a statement, Cooke recalled reading about the Kugelauditorium as a teenager, learning that it was presented in the same fair as the first mobile phone. “In the decades that followed,” he said, “I became increasingly confused that since 1970 our society had created 15 billion mobile phones but no further spherical concert halls.”
The sphere’s programming at the Shed will run from June 9 through July 7 and will feature a D.J. set by Yaeji as well as one by Carl Craig, who plans to map the family tree of electronic music through a playlist. There will be listening sessions of the xx’s debut album, released in 2009 but remixed for the Sonic Sphere, as well as of Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.”
Artists will also perform live, including the pianist Igor Levit, who — in a programming departure from his usual New York appearances at Carnegie Hall — will play Morton Feldman’s “Palais de Mari,” with a visual accompaniment by Rirkrit Tiravanija.
“I’ve tried to have quite a broad charge in terms of what we’re doing,” Poots said. “I view the Sonic Sphere almost like an instrument. We’re trying to figure out how to play it, but I think it has huge potential.”
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