Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan
 

John Kannenberg: A Sound Map of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

April 19, 2011

On April 22, 2011, a new soundscape composition created by School of Art and Design MFA candidate John Kannenberg will be released on 3LEAVES, a record label based in Budapest, Hungary specializing in the presentation of field recording-based composition.

“A Sound Map of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo” is an hour long journey through Egypt’s grandest museum, an institution in the heart of downtown Cairo filled with some of the most important artifacts of world heritage ever assembled under one roof, ranging from objects like the five millennia-old Palette of King Narmer to the New Kingdom golden funerary mask of King Tutankhamun. Meticulously edited from over eight hours of field recordings made on site at the museum in the spring of 2010, the composition takes listeners on an impossible journey through the museum’s senescent galleries, presenting a series of sonic objects many visitors might otherwise miss: the almost liquid reverb of the museum’s grand atrium, the hiss and rumble of the ventilation system that pumps controlled air into the chambers where the royal mummies lie, the buzz and crackle of aging fluorescent lights about to extinguish themselves, the bangs and rattles of carpenters making spot repairs to the galleries, and the laughter of museum employees gathered for a break to watch a local sitcom on a mobile phone.

With ongoing plans to move the contents of the Egyptian Museum to the new Grand Egyptian Museum building located near the Giza plateau, the soundscape of this century-old current museum has in recent years been destined for change. Yet even before this relocation could take place, the political revolution in Cairo during January and February of 2011 left an indelible mark on the Egyptian Museum’s sonic identity. Tahrir Square, the nexus of the revolution, is located just a block away from the museum. During the protests, a gang of looters used the growing unrest to their advantage and broke in to the museum, somehow managing to evade the human chain of brave citizens who formed a protective wall around the outside of the building. The looters stole or damaged over fifty objects, many of which are still missing. This breach of the museum’s security leaves a physical and sonic rupture, a blemish on the collection and its audience that may never heal.

“A Sound Map of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo” collects and preserves the pre-revolution soundscape of one of the world’s greatest museums, a sonic relic blending the sounds of contemporary Cairo with the resonance of some of Egypt’s most famous ancient objects. The CD comes packaged with a booklet containing an essay by the composer as well as an annotated visual map illustrating the time code locations of the sound objects collected in the piece. More information about the CD can be found on the 3LEAVES website: http://www.3leaves-label.com/releases.html and on Kannenberg’s own website: http://johnkannenberg.com/sound/EgyptianMuseum.html

John Kannenberg: A Sound Map of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

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