Thursday, September 20, 2012


Stepping out of the late-summer sun into Janet Cardiff and George Bures’ sound installation, The Murder of Crows, is shock to your senses. Beneath the single light source is a gramophone, over which Cardiff’s voice reciting dreams is heard, with seats surrounding it in a semicircle. The dark, cavernous space at Park Avenue Armory feels infinite as 89 speakers pull you in. Cardiff’s voice recounts three dream sequences that are interspersed with unnerving soundscapes until tension is finally released by a sweet lullaby.  Like sitting around a story teller, the lit space is a designated safe area while sounds crescendo to frightening intensity and break with clarity around the darkened drill hall.

Cardiff creates a loose narrative as the dreams lead into soundscapes that drive the story forward by powerfully pushing through to the next scene. Visitors experience the violent machinal clanging of a post-industrial chaos following Cardiff’s description of an unknown, flowing blood source and the beautiful operatic chorus singing about a lost leg after a description of the disembodied limb found in an abandoned beach house. The clarity and sensual quality of the sounds heighten unease as the visitor becomes totally absorbed. Exploring the darkened drill hall is welcomed but you cannot know what lurks. Each step away from Cardiff’s voice takes your further into her nightmare.


  1. Great work especially given the challenges in reviewing such an innovative form of art. I really like your vivid description of the installation, such as how the hall “feels infinite” and how the lit space becomes a “safe area”, reminding me exactly how I felt when being there. One suggestion is to include more on the topics the artists try to investigate here. For example you mentioned their “doubt in the strength of humanity” which I think could be discussed further. You might also consider describing briefly a specific scene in the dreams so that readers know what kind of horror it is (e.g. bloody, suspenseful or ghostly etc.). And one minor thing, there’s a typo in the last sentence (“your” -> “you”). In general I think your review succeeds in provoking interest and attracting people to the show!

  2. The first paragraph immediately pulls the reader into the space with a solid description of the show. You do a wonderful job of setting the tone and it recalls my memory of the show perfectly. I loved your description of being pulled into the nightmare, but I think this could have been reinforced with a more thorough description of the different sounds experienced and also the subject matter of the dreams. For people who have not seen the show, it might have been helpful to describe the various emotions evoked by sound (heroic, terrified, peaceful). Overall, you did a fantastic job of recreating the feel of the show and translating an aural experience to a written one.