Adam Basanta Brings Sound and Sculpture to Nutting Gallery

By Ian Beabout, Online Editor

Wednesday, March 30th saw the opening of one of the most intriguing exhibits to be presented in West Liberty’s Nutting Gallery. The gallery is typically host to incredible works of visual art, including professional shows, faculty shows, and my personal favorite, student works. This one added the extra dimension of sound to the proceedings, making for works that were both sculptural and musical.

The gent’s name is Adam Basanta – “just call me Adam,” he said, sitting relaxed on a bench in the gallery. Bearded, unassuming, and eager to talk and share his feelings on his pieces with anyone who cared to listen, Basanta felt like a true artistic soul and yet real, down to earth.

Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Basanta’s works traverse a multitude of mediums, combining sculpture and music with technology, philosophy, and outsider art.  

“The title of the show is Systems of Listening, Systems for Listening,” said Basanta. “The idea behind that being that each one of the pieces is like a model for listening. There’s a sense that the pieces, even though they are not human beings or alive – they have some sort of very limited sense of listening. My work, even though I call it sound art, is really more about listening than about sound.”

“Of course, as I have a background in music, sound is very important, but really what I’m interested in as listening,” said Basanta.

Most of the time I spent with him, he talked about perhaps the most fascinating work in the room, A Room Listening to Itself, an installation he developed in 2015. The basic concept was feedback – 7 speakers lined up before a microphone, each one tuned via his computer to produce tones at random and build increasingly complex harmonies. The speakers themselves were mostly found objects in various states of disrepair.

“Each one of these speakers is different and there’s a story behind each one of them,” said Basanta. “There’s this sense that each one has its own sonic character and its own visual character.”

The result reminded me somewhat of the sound one might expect to hear from wine glasses, though occasionally the sensation became quite intense as the overtones built on top of one another, eventually receding into silence. The effect on the listener was that of the deep, relaxed, concentration and meditation one might associate with ambient music.

As you might expect, Basanta’s musical influences are diverse and fascinating.

“I listen to a lot of experimental electronic music, a lot of jazz, alternative jazz,” Basanta said. “I like to listen to classical music when I’m working on pieces. Of course a lot of rock, pop; I’m pretty diverse.”

Basanta’s installation will be open through April 21st in the Nutting Gallery.  For more information, you can visit the Nutting Gallery Facebook page or contact gallery director Robert Villamagna.