On May 2, 2015, I participated in the sound art event, The Cryptophonic Tour. The Cryptophonic Tour was a one-day immersive arts event at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. The audience was invited to explore Oakland’s musical history through this interactive installation featuring the works of more than a dozen sound, multimedia and performance artists.
Using Oakland Cemetery’s archives and audio collected on the cemetery grounds as source material, 14 different artists presented immersive audio landscapes that recounted the fascinating backstories of 14 sites at Oakland that were instrumental in shaping Atlanta’s earliest days as a musical city. The Cryptophonic Tour also featured musical performances, readings and dialogue with local artists, scholars and writers including Emory University professor Gary Laderman, American Afterlife author Kate Sweeney, and Pat Powers, who wrote Oakland’s guided tour on which The Cryptophonic Tour is based.
Ben Dewberry's grave site was chosen for my part. For the piece, I created an interactive installation in collobartion with the legendary local artist Evereman (Jay Wiggins, pictured below).
Ben Dewberry was a train engineer in the Atlanta area in the late 19th/ early 20th century. He died in a train crash in 1908 when his train derailed, capturing the imagination of the songwriter Andrew Jenkins, who wrote the song, "Ben Dewberry's Final Run" about the fatal wreck. Legendary musicians Jimmy Rodgers and Johnny Cash, among others, later covered Jenkins's tune.
My idea was to allow audience participants to experience what those last moments of Dewberry's life was like through sound. Using the graphical interface program Pure Data, I created two soundscapes: one that was serene and peaceful and another that was horrific and that channeled the train wreck itself. Through an external device, audience members would be able to toggle between the two soundscapes. That is where Evereman came in. Jay created a lever housed in a train mimicking structure. I connected the lever to Pure Data through an Arduino. The results were well received and a lot of fun to play with.