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Sacred Voyage: When 'Soundwave' First Came to the Grace Cathedral

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From its start back in 2004, the Soundwave Festival has been about harnessing the power of sound in order to revel in it. Yet this season, its 7th biennial, is the first its artists have performed at the Grace Cathedral, San Francisco’s Mecca of sound, where Duke Ellington premiered his first set of Sacred Concert compositions — what he called “the most important thing I’ve done.”

The festival occurs every two years, and the organizers, the ME’DI.ATE Art Group, take an entire month to host performances from dozens of artists in various venues all over the city, all of which were inspired by a theme that changes with each season.

The theme of Soundwave ((7)) Architecture, 2016’s Soundwave Biennial, was to commission works that explored the connections to our physical environment and how they shape our lives. For its first two performances at the acoustically gorgeous, almost century-old French cathedral, the artists were tasked with creating performances that both exploited the Grace Cathedral’s structure and explored different themes.

In the July 29 concert,  Sounding Bodies: Embodied Architectures, four artists were tasked with demonstrating the different ways bodies could be used as vessels for sound. For the second concert on August 5,  Invisible Fortress, another four artists explored the concept of buildings and issues facing the communities that inhabit them.

Many of the artists explored these themes using dancing, singing, electronic noises and elaborate light shows. For example, Joe Lasqo and Ensemble used ancient Vedic architectural principles to create structures of sound, light, and even digital information.


“It was very important that is wasn’t just only an art piece, it was a ritual, it was something that should bring more magical energy into existence,” Lasqo said.

The video above, from KQED Arts, is a sampling of the performances at Grace Cathedral over two nights this past summer.

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