Seventeen artists will take over Oakland Cemetery on Saturday and create music, sound installations and performances inspired by the musical history of one of Atlanta’s oldest public parks.
The Cryptophonic Tour, as it is called, was birthed when ROAMtransmissions, a group that runs a digital platform for soundscapes, contacted Oakland about taking their audio-zine off of Tumblr and onto the grass. The folks at Oakland, who had wanted to bring more arts events to the cemetery, decided to have the tour inaugurate its Arts at Oakland Program, which aims to use the arts to educate the community about Oakland Cemetery’s rich history and to examine its significance in a contemporary context.
The event is informed by an Oakland tour called “Bandmasters, Fifers, Composers and More: Oakland’s Music Makers,” which highlights the influential musicians buried in the cemetery. Tour guide Pat Powers, who created the tour, shows visitors the gravesites of musicians who established Atlanta as a musical city. Among them are Laura Isabelle Moore “Lollie Bell” Wylie, who wrote the music for Georgia’s official state song “Georgia” in 1922 (the official state song before “Georgia On My Mind”), and B. F. White, who published The Sacred Harp collection of psalm and hymn tunes used in shape-note singing.
On Saturday singer Jesse Karlsberg will lead a graveside choral performance of White’s compositions called “Done with the World: Death in the Music of Benjamin Franklin White.”
Drawing on Oakland’s rich Civil War history, performance artist Grace Thornton will play a Civil War widow singing mourning hymns while doing a “Widow’s Walk” around the cemetery. Sound artist Meredith Kooi’s presentation, which will take place among the unmarked graves of Potter’s Field, is a sound memorial for the people buried there using solar theremins, which are small objects that make sound in response to sunlight and shadows. The sound emitted from solar theremins is similar to that of a creaking door, and the frequency and pitch of the sound changes depending on the intensity of sunlight and whether a moving body is blocking the light.
Other participating artists also include: Paige Adair, Madeline Adams, Cole Alexander, Shorty Bedford, Tera Buerkle, Chris Childs, Chris Devoe, Chelsea Dunn, Dust-to-Digital Sound System, Jane Garver, Meta Gary, Michika McClinton, Ryan Peoples and Chris White.
“Sound affects people differently than visual art,” said Devin Brown, The Cryptophonic Tour’s director. “People are not as familiar with sound as a medium, so I am interested to see how audiences will react to it.”
There will also be talks by Gary Laderman (Emory University), Pat Powers and Kate Sweeney (author, American Afterlife) about the history of Oakland Cemetery.
Armed with a map of the artworks and a schedule of performances, visitors will be equipped to roam the grounds and discover the pieces that are scattered throughout the grounds.
Food trucks and beer and wine vendors will add to the arts festival vibe. “We envision this as the type of thing you can come to with your family . . . for a whole day and grab a beer, snack, listen to music and just hangout,” says Brown.
Despite being a cemetery, Oakland is very much alive.
May 2 from 2 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the gate and $10 if purchased in advance.