If you were taking a stroll through NorthPark Center this weekend, then you probably saw (and possibly heard) a new sculpture that’s positioned in between entrances to Dillard’s and Neiman Marcus.
The sculpture is a site specific piece that was created by L.A.-based sculptor and recording artist Sebastien Leon. It’s called “The Diffracted Symphony.” And the large structure features 16 steel pipes (each of different diameters) that have been wielded together and wired for sound. Inside of the pipes are individual speakers that blast out a version of Verdi’s great Requiem, performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jaap van Zweden. The Requiem has been called an ‘agnostic Mass’ and even a ‘dramatic opera’ because of its sense of terror and loss (Verdi wrote it after the death of his close friend, the poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, who died in 1873).
But the Requiem has been altered. Instead of having a solemn tone (which was originally intended), Leon’s “Diffracted Symphony” is more eerie and causes a bit of confusion.
Leon teamed up with the acclaimed sound designer Stephen Deweys to modify Verdi’s Requiem. And the duo has wired each speaker to play different sounds. Leon says the alteration makes the music sound more contemporary and that he hopes audiences will walk right up to the piece and place their ears next to each tube.
Leon’s original inspiration for the sculpture was the image of a whale decomposing on a beach. He says he wanted to make a work that commented on the environment and how humans’ existence has affected the oceans and the animal life living in the sea. But he also admits that his knowledge of ocean tides is limited. He knows there may be a natural reason that the largest living mammals on earth have washed up on beaches. But he finds it striking that the world keeps going anyway.
“The Diffracted Symphony” is currently surrounded by the “Five Hammering Men” sculptures created by Jonathan Borofsky, long-time fixtures in the NorthPark art collection. Those men can be interpreted as hard at work, too busy to look up. Or you could view them as individuals who are stuck tackling the monotonous task of manual labor. Either way, now that they are surrounding Leon’s whale’s carcass, it’s almost as if they are representations of how industry keeps moving on — even as a giant whale dies nearby.