UPGRADE! NY: Sounding Community—Three Artists on Participatory Sound Art

Upgrade! NY
June 2006

This month’s meeting examined participatory performance and interactivity in the context of contemporary sound art and new music.

The evening brought together three artists working with sound and music: Jesse Pearlman KarlsbergMicah Silver, and Judy Dunaway. Each of these artists draws their audience into the creation of their work.

Jesse discussed Azariah: Whom Jehovah Helps, a new project weaving book arts, poetry, shape note singing, and storytelling into a participatory live event. Azariah turns its audience into an impromptu chorus and draws on Jesse’s experience working with shape note singing, audience participation, and New York’s religious history.

Micah talked about his recent installations The Phoenix*Asterisk, and Carousels. Each piece draws from the local audience’s aural and physical experience of site as primary source material.

Judy talked about her work with balloons and how she draws her audience into music-making, and presented her Balloon Symphony #2. Judy Dunaway’s Balloon Symphonies are audience-participation works.


Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg is a sound artist and shape note singer whose work explores politics, religious practice, singing, and personal narrative. Jesse’s work is interdisciplinary. While grounded in sound, his projects have mixed book arts, installation, poetry, singing, composition, audio tour, and theater. His current work investigates the history and practice of American shape note singing and the social and religious movements of nineteenth-century upstate New York. Jesse has presented work at the Tang Museum, Boston Cyberarts Festival, Jessica Murray Projects, CCCB (Barcelona), CAC (North Adams), Google Inc., Old Songs Building, Psy-Geo Provflux Festival, Wesleyan University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a member of Festival Harmony, and of Tintinnabulate, an ensemble founded by Pauline Oliveros. His shape note music has been sung at singings throughout the Northeast, and his experimental music has been performed by Pauline Oliveros, Anne Rhodes, Angela Opell, Caterina De Re, and Tim Eastman, among others.

Micah Silver was born 1980 in Sylva, North Carolina, but grew up in rural Massachusetts. He studied music composition and art at Wesleyan University where his primary teachers were Alvin Lucier, Anthony Braxton, and Ron Kuivila. He has also studied privately with composers Lewis Spratlan and Earle Brown. Recent projects include *asterisk for 12 broken grand pianos, loudspeakers, and transduced glass, commissioned by The Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art; Carousels, a commission by the James Joyce Centre, Dublin for the centennial of Bloomsday, and The Phoenix a six-month-long outdoor installation commissioned by the City of New Haven. Further information on Silver’s work can be found online at nophones.org.

Judy Dunaway is an internationally known sound artist whose works for balloons have been presented throughout North American and Europe including the Roy and Edna Disney Center, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Seltsame Musik Festival, Podewil, ZKM, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Everson Art Museum, Bang On A Can Festival, Seance Ecoute, Diapason, Roulette, Galerie Rachael Haferkamp, Moltkerai Werkstatt, Guelph Jazz Festival, Gracie Mansion Gallery, P.S. 122, Alternative Museum, and the Swiss Institute. Awards/grants/residencies include the Aaron Copland Fund, American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, ZKM, Harvestworks, and the NEA. Her new CD “Judy Dunaway: Mother of Balloon Music” was just released on Innova Recordings. Her discography also includes recordings on CRI and Outer Realm. Ms. Dunaway holds a M.A. in Music from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. (candidacy) in Music Composition from State University of New York (Stony Brook).

People: Micah Silver, Judy Dunaway, Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg
Tags: Upgrade!, sound art, performance, interactive