The Sounds of Joy
During the quiet time of winter, I am drawn to nature…a walk in the woods through barren trees, a search for sea glass on an ocean beach, a view of a sunset from a cozy porch.
We came upon a newspaper article about one such bucolic nature spot for us to visit which, as serendipity would have it, had as its focus an acoustic installation called…”Joy, still.” Really. We, of course, had to go.
The destination was Grace Farms (https://gracefarms.org), an 80 acre nature preserve and foundation in New Canaan, Connecticut, that features a modern serpentine chain of structures called The River that flows down a hilly landscape.
At the top of The River structure is a 700 seat glass-enclosed amphitheater Sanctuary, where the main portion of the installation was staged. “Julianne Swartz: Joy, still” was a 16 channel, 21+ minute sound track loop, created as a culminating reflection on what had been a year-long exploration of the topic of joy at Grace Farms.
There were sounds of chimes, chanting, low thunder-like rumbles, electronic music, falling water, instrument tones, and a mix of human voices speaking about joy—such as “when I feel joy, my muscles loosen;” “joy work is the work we do to resist despair”– and silence. The sounds emanated from embedded speakers around the room, some in the ceiling and some under the seats. The auditory experience was enigmatic, mysterious, and mesmerizing.
A curvy corridor with another related four-channel soundtrack led to the Library which featured a small collection of books on topics about nature, arts, justice, community and faith. I purchased a book of 100 poems called Joy edited by Christian Wiman that already has me thinking about joy more broadly than I had before.
The next building down the hill was the cafe which had that same open free aesthetic and which served a fun menu. We shared a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich with a small accompaniment of truffle oil popcorn, followed by chocolate chip biscotti bites (once an Italian, always an Italian!)
After the exuberant joy and festivities of a family Christmas, Grace Farms provided a nature-inspired, quiet transition point. A place to breathe in, to breathe out, to give thanks, and to start imagining what 2019 might bring into our lives.