Oliver Beer: Vessel Orchestra

2 Jul 2019 – 11 Aug 2019

Regular hours

10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 21:00
10:00 – 21:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York
New York, United States


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Oliver Beer: Vessel Orchestra—the first sound-based performance exhibition commissioned by The Met—is composed of 32 objects from The Met collection—sculptures, utilitarian containers, and decorative works—that together form a musical instrument.


Opening at The Met Breuer on July 2, the installation consists of vessels chosen by British artist Oliver Beer (b. 1985) for their innate sound frequencies. Beer’s work explores relationships between sound and form, and in the past has featured personal objects and household possessions, as well as historical vessels from various collections. However, Vessel Orchestra marks the first time Beer has engaged with objects from a collection as vast and varied as The Met’s, and the first time he has created an assembly of vessels that can be 'played' by musicians in a series of live performances.

This performance exhibition is made possible in part by Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky.

Each object’s ambient sound is captured with a small microphone activated by a keyboard, transforming the arrangement of vessels into a versatile musical instrument. With works whose origins range from ancient Persia to modern America, the installation links art objects across historical periods and cultures, creating an audible portrait of The Met’s encyclopedic collection. A vast array of vessels were auditioned by Beer to find those that “sing” precisely in one of 32 consecutive notes. For example, a nearly 6,000-year-old ceramic jar from Central Iran resonates in a low E, while a large, abstract Joan Miró vase elicits a middle F. 

“The Met collection is one of the world’s greatest sources of inspiration,” commented Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “It’s exhilarating to witness the innovative way that Oliver Beer has interpreted these objects, presenting a new perspective and perhaps an unexpected experience for visitors.”

During regular Museum hours, a pre-programmed audio interface will play a new composition written by Beer for this exhibition, animating the vessels in a "player piano-style." Beginning on July 5, a diverse group of guest artists, musicians, and composers will activate the vessels, performing compositions and improvisations in a series of in-gallery concerts on Friday evenings while the exhibition is on view.

Schedule of performances:

Friday, July 5: Bruce Brubaker and Ekmeles (Charlotte Mundy, Amber Evans, Jeffrey Gavett, Steven Hrycelak) 
Music by John Cage, Alvin Lucier, Philip Glass and early medieval keyboard music

Friday, July 12: Mashrou Leila (Firas Abou Fakher, Hamed Sinno, Haig Papazian, Carl Gerges) with Rabih Almuddine

Friday, July 19: Matana Roberts with Darius Jones

Friday, July 26: Women’s Raga Massive (Roopa Mahadevan, Trina Basu, Amali Premawardhana, Roshni Samal)

Friday, August 2: Nico Muhly and friends

Friday August 9: John Zorn with Sara Serpa, Sae Hashimoto, Kenny Wollesen, Ikue Mori

Please visit The Met’s website for more details. 
This schedule is subject to change.

All of the exhibition’s performances are free with Museum admission.

Exhibiting artists

Oliver Beer


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