Undertone is a sonic evocation of the painting The Concert, by Vermeer, which was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, as a part of the largest art heist in recent history.
The installation triggers the audience‘s memory and imagination of the painting through the use of sound: Fragments of a contemporary rehearsal of the piece „Ombre de mon amant“ by Michel Lambert appear from the empty frame that once held the painting, amplifying its absence. A voice is heard as part of the composition, reciting fragments of the Air de cour‘s lyrics, a musical style popular at house concerts during the 17th century in the Netherlands. Drawing on the intimate undertone of the scene depicted, this voice was recorded in the style of ASMR, a popular phenomena known to arouse the listener’s feelings through the experience of sound.
An ultrasonic sound beam carrying the composition was bounced off glass installed inside the frame. The composition was reflected back into the space - audible when standing in front of the frame, where the visitor had an impression of a cloud of sound forming around the missing painting.
The recording of the music and sound fragments was done in collaboration with the renowned „Four Nations Ensemble“ (New York / Montreal). Undertone was part of the exhibition "Listen Hear: The Art of Sound" at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 2017.
The Four Nations Ensemble: Pascale Beaudin (Voice / Soprano), Andrew Appel (Harpsichord), Daniel Swenberg (Lute)
Recording technician: Brian C. Peters
Undertone, installation view at the Dutch Room, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston 2017