Sound Garden

Well, since the CBC shows Olympic coverage hours before NBC and I’m all caught up on swimming, I’ll take a break from watching the Olympics (I like anything that involves a race–especially swimming–because the rules are simple: whoever is the fastest wins) to talk about the NOAA Art Walk/Sound Garden. 

The Sound Garden has been a much fabled art Seattle art fixture (at least among our little group). It’s near Warren G. Magnuson Park but on NOAA land (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) so in order to see the sculpture you must pass through a security checkpoint. The Sound Garden is a collection of towers with tubes that catch the wind to create different tones, depending on the speed and direction of the wind. According to a Seattle website, “NOAA’s art collection includes six outdoor artworks by nationally recognized artists.” The NOAA website is either broken or off limits to lowly citizens because searching the website brings up a lot of error messages, but the Seattle Parks website assured me that visitors could enter through the NOAA main gate Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm.

L and I had some trouble locating the NOAA main gate (driving around Magnuson Park aimlessly for a while) bet eventually located it and told the security guards what we desired: to see the art walk. They took our drivers licenses and we waited maybe five minutes before they gave us visitors badges and a map.

We got a little excited and took pictures of a large (and rather poorly executed) mural and some upturned metal tubes as well as what appeared to be a weather data tower. 

Lame Mural

Art? Or Debris?

Art? Or Debris?

 Next we saw the Sound Garden. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. It looks a lot like a cluster of weather vanes. And the sound? was almost non-existent. At one point we tricked ourselves into thinking it was letting off a nice, high-pitched squeal, but it must have been an alarm from a nearby building because it certainly wasn’t coming from the tubes. Perhaps it requires more wind, but there were several decent gusts, and nothing. Or, perhaps it needs some attention, as several of the towers creaked loudly when the arms rotated in the wind. Or, perhaps it needs a chorus of “Hands All Over” to get it warmed up (yes, that Soundgarden is named for this Sound Garden).


Sound Garden

Sound Garden

We wandered around looking for the rest of the “art.” A small footbridge with text (apparently from Moby Dick) is all that appears to remain of the “art walk.” And at the time I didn’t even know it was anything more than a nice little bridge. There was a platform that may have supported a long-gone sculpture, and some iron girders set into the lake that may have held the platform noted in a Seattle P-I article, but other than gorgeous views of the lake and lots of sun-warmed blackberries, there wasn’t much to see.

We went back to Magnuson Park to see the The Fin Project: From Swords into Plowshares. Fins from former US Naval Submarines rise out of the grass, and even though there was a large mound of cedar wood chips screwing with the visual line (and the path, we kept sinking into the piles as we walked) it is a beautiful and moving (I kept expecting the fins to start “swimming” toward the water). The fins are arranged to approximate a whale pod formation.


My picture does nothing to capture it.

My picture does nothing to capture it.

So, unless it is a particularly windy day, skip NOAA and the possible background check (why else did it take them so long to look at our drivers licenses?) and stick with the Fins. Or, better yet, head over to Volunteer Park to see Noguchi’s Black Sun (and sing Black Hole Sun! Do we know if there is actually a connection there, Alison?).

I really haven’t done any research other than read a few Seattle P-I articles on-line and look at the Seattle Parks website, so there may be more of a story. But since I’m working on more important things and watching the Olympics, that’s all you get for now.


One response to “Sound Garden

  1. That’s too bad there wasn’t much sound in the Sound Garden. Earlier this year, my public art professor raved about the “eerie” noises of wind passing through the tubes, so maybe it was a windier day, or maybe they need to be repaired, like you said.

    I don’t know of any identified connection between Black Sun/Black Hole Sun, but I bet it’s a subconscious connection at least, since the band is from Seattle and we know they like naming things after parks.

    Speaking of, did you hear about the band’s recent reunion at a Seattle Cinnabon? (Courtesy my wonderful hometown newspaper.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s