Daniel Neumann’s “Channels” At Fridman Gallery

Ravelin Magazine, January 12, 2018

Daniel Neumann occupies the unique position that exists comfortably between the world of art and the world of sound. True, in addition to being an sound artist, he is also a sound engineer, but he’s the sound engineer at PS1: there is always an overlapping. Some highlights from career that illustrate this overlapping include being the acoustic designer of The World Is Sound at the Rubin Museum; he is also the live sound engineer for Diamanda Galás and David Guetta, who perform concerts for up to 80k people. And his tenure at MoMA PS1 went from 2013-16.


The occasion for our chat with Neumann was to discuss his sound installation Channels at Fridman Gallery in Soho. Visually, the show is dominated by a gigantic 56 channel mixing board, and there are 56 electronic sounds being emitted, one for each channel in the mixer. The result is a field of sound within the gallery space. It is not a monolithic field, however. It changes and adapts, and as the listener changes position the sounds the listener hears change as well.


The show runs from January 3-24. And as Neuman notes in our interview, the hours have been pushed back to 6pm-9pm in order to help blur the line between installation and performance.


As someone coming from a electronic music background, was it always your intention to have you work exist in an art gallery setting?

I actually studied Media Art at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig, with my personal focus on Sound Art. Then I did an exchange for a year to study Electronic Music Composition at a conservatory in Sicily, so I’ve always been in this zone between experimental music and installation art. It is my very interest to blur the categorial division between installation and performance – which was the main reason for me to shift the gallery hours of my show to 6p-9p. The evening hours I think suggest a different mode of perceiving – more like a screening or a concert, rather than the afternoon gallery stroll. But then there actually is an installation in a white cube gallery setting with various objects emitting sound and no human performers. The apparatus itself is animated/programmed, and the sound is changing over the course of the exhibition, which is more like a performance. And to me it feels like the installation is performing itself. So yeah, it is definitely intentional to present work in a gallery setting, and at the same time loosening the very framework of that setting.

How would you describe a 3D sound field?

A 3D sound field to me is a composed sound environment where sound is being emitted from all directions – not only 360 degree around the listener on one horizontal plane, like in most surround sound configurations, but adding height and depth. For CHANNELS I’ve approached the speaker placement in a very open format, responding to the specific architecture. For example, there’s a suspended speaker behind the free standing gallery wall pointed up, so that the sound is being reflected and diffused by the ceiling. And behind that same wall is a 21″ subwoofer that turns the entire wall, which is only one sheet of drywall, into a wildly vibrating membrane, like a big drumhead, saturating the entire gallery space. In sound field composition for me sound is the sculptural component. And the speakers are to be hidden as much as possible. Whereas with the objects, sound becomes their voice, and I see the sound as an articulation of that specific object. In this show, for the first time for me, I have both modi happening at the same time: sound field composition and object articulation.