Multi-channel sound installation
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Soundwalk Collective ‘Mirage’
Film by Stephan Crasneanscki
Editing by Jim Helton


Louvre Abu Dhabi

Between 2010 – 2018 Soundwalk Collective travelled across the Rub’ al Khali desert in UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen several times. Known as the Empty Quarter, the Rub’ al Khali is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world, virtually uninhabited and mostly unexplored. Here, with the backdrop of a deafening silence, the Collective recorded an acoustic phenomenon known as the ‘Singing Sand’ or ‘Whistling Sand’: sand that produces sound, caused by wind passing over the dunes. Its friction creates a vibration of sound waves between the layers of dry and humid sand, creating a resonance – an entrancing melody.

As a sonic mirage, the Collective composed evanescent musical phrases in a style known as Orientalism: a constructed Western depiction of Middle Eastern music, a metaphor, an imaginary geography. Full of close little ornaments and melisma’s, chromatic accompanying lines and drone bass, the same sonic characteristics were also used by Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Satie, Ravel, Prokofiev and Strauss. These scores inspire the myth of the desert, envisioned as a mystical and transcendental place, and draw a musical bridge between the West and the East.

Ephermal, volatile melodies, appear and disappear as a sonic illusion; leaving behind a questionable memory of an imaginary identity.

Soundwalk Collective’s Mirage is presented as a site-specific multichannel sound installation for 24 speakers and video, and is performed with the Cristal Baschet ‘Venise’ and Verbos synthesizer.

Mirage is supported by the Bernard Baschet Estate, the Association Structures Sonores Baschet, and the Analogue Foundation.

All recordings by Soundwalk Collective.
Music consulting and Buchla: Hans Tammen
Sound technology by L-Acoustics