Salisbury Press

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PHOTO BY BATHSHEBA MONK Scott Sherk, above, in front of the visual for his sound piece, PHOTO BY BATHSHEBA MONK Scott Sherk, above, in front of the visual for his sound piece, "Birds in Bamboo," one of six pieces in "Scott Sherk: Surround," Aug. 28 - Sept. 28, Martin Art Gallery, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, Allentown.

Sound design at Muhlenberg

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 by BATHSHEBA MONK Special to The Press in Focus

You're in for a wonderful and wonderfully unusual treat when Scott Sherk's new sound pieces debut Aug. 28 in "Scott Sherk: Surround," Martin Art Gallery, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Sherk, head of the art department at Muhlenberg as well as professor of art (sculpture), creates sculpture using sound. A platform covered with a shag rug will allow visitors to sit or lay down to experience the pieces which are created by sound coming in through eight speakers placed around the gallery.

It's some of the purest and most evocative sound you will ever experience.

"Birds in Bamboo" is a sound Sherk recorded in the bamboo patch outside his studio in Orefield, North Whitehall Township, then later manipulated in his studio, as he does with all his pieces, using software that handles eight channels.

"Dolmen" is the sound of a pre-historic site he recorded while on an art fellowship in southern Italy. "Dolmen" has a disturbing draining sound and I couldn't help but try to put a story to the sound: Was it the site of a barbaric people's altar? And what exactly was draining?

Sherk says he tries not to develop a narrative with his pieces, but I think humans have a tendency to try to make sense of random sensory experiences and creating a narrative is one way to do this. But soon, I was enjoying the pure sound and, yes, the sculpture it was creating in the room, which actually had nothing to do with the pre-historic site. I forgot the story and willingly entered this new world.

A friend of mine defines art as recognizing something you knew but couldn't articulate. The artist polishes reality in such a way the astounded audience says, "Yes, that's exactly right: the right color, the right word, the right pitch and I've experienced it somewhere before, even if that somewhere was only in my dreams: especially in my dreams."

Other pieces in the show include "Rondine," "Running: Central Park Reservoir," "Marbles" and "The Victor's Lament." All of the pieces have accompanying visuals which are projected on the wall. They are not intended to be illustrations, and in fact may not be indicative of where the sound was recorded.

"They're like old album covers," Sherk says. "When I used to listen to 33s, I would have the album cover on my lap. It's just a focus."

The opening reception is 4 - 6 p.m. Sept. 5 in the gallery.

Information: 484-664-3467