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Office of Economic Development
Office of Economic Development

The City of Berkeley has an innovative public art space in its downtown programmed with a variety of engaging and dynamic art installations and cultural presentations, including an ongoing series of sound art compositions and temporary sculptural installations, as well as live music and dance performances.

A series of ten sound art installations at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza playing 7 days a week from 7 AM – 10 PM.

Current Installation:

Margaret Noble: Coming Soon!
The outside world of human noises has been quiet lately. However, in the confines of closed quarters during quarantine, many have made their own soundscapes by singing or playing music while waiting for life to open up again. The Moments Before is the story of what happens prior to a performance. It is a sound collage of amateur and professional players and singers of all ages experimenting, rehearsing, and tuning their instruments. As a surround sound composition, The Moments Before is composed of over a hundred acoustic and electronic recordings from around the world made during the COVID-19 quarantine in 2020. Instruments and vocal approaches vary wildly and at any given moment one might hear scatting, humming, tuning, singing, and a variety of instruments from a diversity of countries. Disparate sounds are mixed in layers sometimes in dialogue with each other and at other times alone in their own intimate sonic worlds. The Moments Before is the soundtrack of anticipation while waiting to experience the full concert again.

Recording locations include: Austria, Brazil, Chile, China, England, France, Germany, Greece, Greenland, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, US, and Vietnam.

Recording credits.

Born in Texas and raised in California, Margaret Noble’s experimental artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Her interdisciplinary work resides at the intersection of sound, sculpture, and performance. Her interdisciplinary artworks have now evolved into interactive sculpture and installation investigating technology and history.

Margaret Noble Photo
Margaret Noble (Photo by Rebecca Webb)

Past Installations:

Danny Clay: April 20 – August 31, 2021
DannyClay is a composer and teaching artist whose work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things with people of all ages and levels of artistic experience. For the sound installation “From Place to Place,” he gave a creative challenge to over a hundred young musicians throughout the Bay Area, from kindergarteners to high schoolers.   

Think of the place where you live. 
Think of a sound from that place which you find beautiful. 
Think of a sound you'd like to bring to that place to make it more beautiful.   

Using instruments, voices, and objects found around their living space, the young musicians made recordings of original sounds inspired by these prompts, which were assembled to create this site specific musical collage for the downtown Berkeley BART Plaza.     

Danny Clay 
Composer Danny Clay (Photo by No Dancing Productions)  

Santomieri-Farhadian Duo: November 20, 2020 – February 15, 2021
Violinist Thea Farhadian and guitarist Dean Santomieri have been performing together since 2011. Their music is almost exclusively improvisational – created in the moment from many stylistic and global musical influences. Their creative process results in a musical conversation. One player begins and the other responds intuitively based upon the timbre, pitch, energy, and artistic direction of the music. “A New Sense of Place” is a site-specific sound installation created in the hope that people moving through the plaza will be pleasantly roused from their thoughts, conversations, or devices, by the unexpected gift of music. Thea Farhadian is a performer/composer who works with solo violin and interactive electronics, acoustic improvisation, solo laptop, radio art, and video. Dean Santomieri composes and performs using electric resonator guitars in non-standard tunings.

As part of the sound installation presentation, the musicians worked with a filmmaker to create a video of the duo’s sound installation at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza

S-F Duo
Thea Farhadian and Dean Santomieri (Photo by Donald Swearingen)

Yann Novak and Robert Crouch: October 18, 2019 – January 17, 2020
"Histories of the Present" is a multichannel site specific sound installation featuring field recordings from Berkeley’s urban, industrial, and natural environments interwoven with recorded multilingual texts sourced from the City of Berkeley’s municipal codes. The artists digitally processed and synthesized the sound samples to create a harmonic composition which moves through the plaza space and becomes a meditation on the contingent relationships between the array of human activity taking place in Berkeley and the area’s ecological systems. More information on the artists’ work can be found at www.yannnovak.robertcrouch.com.

Yann and Robert
Open Composers Yann Novak and Robert Crouch (Photo by Chrisopher Wormald)

Maggi Payne: July 18 – October 17, 2019
“Immersion—Bay Area Soundscape” is a discrete eight-channel installation using sounds of nature the artist recorded in the Bay Area over many years. The sonic environment this work creates is reminiscent of sounds that once likely existed in this very location—windstorms, thunder, rain, streams, a seashore, underwater sounds, frogs, crickets, and birds. “Immersion” follows water from storm to creek and ocean portraying nature’s water cycle, which is so critical to the life of this planet. Sounds travel both laterally and through the four pairs of speakers, providing an immersive experience for people standing still or traversing the space. For more information on the artist’s work visit www.maggipayne.com.

Maggi Image 4
Composer Maggi Payne (Photo by Brian Reinbolt)

Ed Campion: April 18 – July 17, 2019
"Berkeley Rain" by composer and sound artist Edmund J. Campion. “Berkeley Rain” is a site specific music composition and sound installation created for the Berkeley BART Plaza. It is a timepiece, not for telling time, but one whose mysterious sonic repetitions express a continual and immersive now. Inspired by the unifying effects of rain and resonance, the sounds drip and pulse as they spatially accompany each passer-by. This audio soundscape is thirty minutes long and repeats on the hour and half hour. The work includes singing voices from the University Chamber Choruses at UC Berkeley, led by the Director of Choral Programs, Wei Cheng. Steve Adams provided the saxophone fragments and Jeremy Wagner, from the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), assisted with recording and spatial audio mixing. Edmund Campion has been active as a composer, performing artist, software developer, collaborating artist, sound artist, and educator for over 25 years. He is a Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley, and is the Director at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (www.cnmat.berkeley.edu). More information can be found at www.edmundcampion.com.

Composer Ed Campion (Photo by Alex Coughlin)  

Gregory Robinson: January 18 – April 17, 2019
"The City, The Block, A Village Amongst Us…" by sound designer, composer and recording engineer Gregory Robinson is a soundscape representing the City of Berkeley's rich cultural and racial diversity, its history of political protest, and its atmosphere of creativity and artistic expression. Created for the BART plaza sound poles, Robinson's audio composition weaves together an array of evocative sounds taking listeners on an auditory journey of the city through sound.

Greg Robinson
Composer Gregory Robinson (Photo by Erica Deeman) 

Chris Brown: October 18, 2018 – January 17, 2019
The first sound art installation presented on the plaza was an original site-specific composition by local composer and electronic musician, Chris Brown, called "Flow in Place" which is comprised of field recordings of musical performances and natural and urban environments from around the world. These recordings were shuffled together into sequences that accompany the movement of people heading from the BART station entrance through the plaza, suggesting conversations and connections between distant places and global environments. More information on Brown and these recordings is available at: http://cbmuse.com 

Chris Brown
Composer Chris Brown (Photo by Lenny Gonzales)

Upcoming installations:                                                                                    
Spiritual Technologies                            
Jim McKee                                              

A large-scale sculpture called “Home” by Berkeley-based artist Michael Christian is on display until June 2022. Home resembles an oversized desktop globe. It is made up of multiple layers of steel with cutout imagery of street maps from around the world evoking the interconnectedness of all people and places around the world. Home was originally created for Burning Man, but has gone on to have a life beyond the desert art festival. For more information on Michael Christian's work: http://michaelchristian.com/ 

Bart Plaza Home Photo
Photo of Michael Christian's sculpture, Home

The plaza also showcases music performances, as well as other community and cultural presentations. Through a collaboration with the Downtown Business Association and with support from the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission, this cultural activation program (called "Berkeley LIVE!") is being produced with the guiding principles of "equity, quality, community and frequency" and is managed initially by Berkeley-based Taylor Street Productions.
Link to Berkeley Live! website

Artists who are interested in performing as part of the Berkeley LIVE! Program are invited to submit an application here (Click on "Perform on the Plaza" link): http://ontheplaza.downtownberkeley.com/  

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