Beau Kenyon is a sound artist and composer whose most recent work can be heard in seven different neighborhoods across Boston. Titled SOUND, the work is a series of three interdisciplinary public art installations that use sound, music, and movement to convey visions of hope, success, and family, according to Kenyon.
“I was thinking a lot about connection and connectivity,” Kenyon said. He wanted to “collect people’s visions of hope and success and family and take those perspectives and place othem in an environment different from which they came.”
So Kenyon partnered with 826 Boston, a non-profit youth writing center, and in December of last year, he began to develop relationships with the teachers and the students at the center. He recorded high school seniors from Boston International High School reading their writing about hope, success, and family. After gathering “so much beautiful information” from the students, he decided to create the installation using solely the words and writing from these students.
Movement I took place at Fujiko Nakaya’s fog sculpture at the Fens on Sept. 14 and 15. The dancers wore sculptural costumes that were designed specifically for the performance, Kenyon said, which had mp3 players and speakers attached. This allowed the dancers to immerse the audience in sound as they moved through the fog sculpture. The movement also featured a soprano singer for whom Kenyon wrote, and her costume carried speakers as well.
Movement II is a series of five identical benches that were designed and built for the installation. One bench was placed at each of five Boston Public Library branches: Chinatown, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Egleston Square, and West Roxbury. Inside the benches were the sounds of the voices of the students reading their writing, as well as a cello and a soprano. Kenyon said that an audience of one or two people who can sit on the bench are able to immerse themselves in this sound.
Movement III, which took place inside Deferrari Hall at the Copley Branch of the Boston Public Library on Oct. 5 and 6, was a live music and movement performance. There was live cello music written by Kenyon and performed by Javier Caballero. A solo dancer (Irene Lutts on Oct. 5 and Ann Brown Allen on Oct. 6) moved around the space to the cello music. Kenyon also hid speakers throughout the hall so the sound reverberated around.
“I love that space; I love that building so much,” Kenyon said of Deferrari Hall.
The three pieces work together to create a cohesive story. It starts outside at the Fens, where the space is very vast and open. It then moves indoors “to a bench that is personal but the same experience can be had in five places where the benches are,” Kenyon said. And then the “BPL feels both very protected but also expansive by the way the hall is designed,” he added. “You get a little bit of both.”
Kenyon said the cellists and soprano are friends and colleagues of his. “I think about the performers while I compose,” he said.
“I love working with dancers and choreographers,” Kenyon said. He said he really wanted this work to be an “intentional movement,” so that’s why he was excited to partner with choreographer Peter DiMuro for this piece. “That’s a lot of what Peter and his company do.” Kenyon called it a “really great match in terms of style and collaboration.”
Collaboration has been a “fundamental” factor throughout this entire process, Kenyon said in a press release. “From the engagement and partnership through 826 Boston and Boston International Newcomers Academy to the relationships built with Peter, Natalia, Ari, Julia, and all of the musicians and dancers — not to mention all of the leaders I have had the pleasure working with at the Emerald Necklace and BPL — I see these relationships as being a processed-based artform in and of themselves. It’s a process of mindful and intentional collaboration that we designed to produce this final work.”