Sara Auster’s Sound Baths Are a Tonic for Our Tumultuous Times
Experiencing true silence is probably impossible. The closest I’ve come is perhaps my 30 minutes inside Doug Wheeler’s “PSAD Synthetic Desert III” (1971), an installation presented at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2017 that gave visitors an experience of near-soundlessness. Stepping into that carefully designed chamber at the apex of the museum’s rotunda, the air felt thick and flat, like everything had suddenly been smothered under a heavy velvet curtain. It was so silent that, after a moment, I could hear the sound of my own blood pumping. I was suddenly aware of my body in a new way. The sound of it maintaining itself was coming through a different kind of physical channel than the regular, everyday hearing I was used to. This produced a simple, but lasting revelation: Hearing, as a perceptual act, is a physical phenomenon.