Art galleries are usually associated with sights, not sounds. But Lexington's Institute 193 is trying to expand notions of what it does this week with the release of an album, 193 Sound, a compilation of "aural art" by Kentucky and Southern artists with whom it has previously worked.
"Performance has always been an integral part of Institute 193's program, i.e., creating projects that document the cultural landscape of the modern South," Institute founder Philip March Jones wrote in an email. "We have hosted dozens of musicians and performers in our space, most notably during our summer concert series."
The album will launch this week with a couple of events including concerts by Alabama artist Lonnie Holley on Thursday at the Institute, where a show of his visual art is opening, and Saturday at CD Central, as part of the store's Record Store Day activities. Holley's song Green Bottom Slave Ship is included on the album.
While there have been plenty of compilation albums of Kentucky and Southern musicians, including Duane Lundy's recent 10 in 20 project, few cast quite as wide a stylistic net as 193 Sound.
That is evident immediately after the opening of the disc, a quick description of sound by Eastern Kentucky author Silas House, with the spiritual Somebody's Knocking by Georgiana B. Pettway and Creola B. Pettway, the abstract sound of Cream Grid Reruns by Three Legged Race and the jangly pop of Twenty Two, Twenty Two by Street Gnar.
"It's sort of all over the spectrum," says Institute director Chase Martin. "But then, so is this region we live in.
For example, he notes there are several artists in Lexington making "experimental noise music. Like, that's a small community in the world at large, and for there to be three or four people making that music in Lexington, very seriously, is just bizarre and kind of exciting."
That community is represented by Ellie Herring with Don't Look That Way, Robert Beatty, represented both by Three Legged Race and DJ (Excerpt), a collaboration with Ben Durham, and others. On the flip side, you get real high-lonesome bluegrass with Five Nights Drunk by the Shepherd Family.
Martin says the Institute was inspired to create a CD by several other projects including the Oxford American magazine's annual Southern music issues with accompanying CDs. Once the decision was made to make an album, he says, they reached out to people they had already worked with to see what they would like to contribute. Some were well-known musicians, including Lexington's Matt Duncan and Idiot Glee, while others were known for visual art and music, like Beatty and Holley. Still others are primarily known for their visual work, like Lexington artist Louis Zoellar Bickett II.
Since opening, Martin says, the Institute was aware of "a lot of artists we know working across a wide variety of media, and who might appreciate a place where they could do not just their visual art, but the music and the sound experiments they had up their sleeves. They didn't have that venue they could explore in, and we could be that place for them."
Martin says he could see similarities in the visual and aural art of some participants, like the pursuit of archive and perfection in Bickett's whistling rendition of Silent Night.
By putting it on an album, the Institute can share the sounds more broadly, locally and globally. In addition to the Institute and CD Central, Jones said, that physical CDs will be sold at "record stores, concept shops, bookstores, and online through digital platforms later next month." That includes iTunes.
Martin said, "As is the goal with most of the things we do, if it were going to be possible at all for us to bring the work of the people of the Southeast and Kentucky to the attention of people outside of the region, that would be great."