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Interdisciplinary Festival Experiments with Art, Music in Limestone Mine

By: Julianna Mattera

Carnegie Mellon University students have taken music and art to a new place — hundreds of feet below the earth's surface.

Students and faculty from CMU's College of Fine ArtsSchool of Computer Science, the BXA Intercollege Degree Programs and Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe) Network put on a one-hour festival Saturday in a limestone mine in Brady's Bend, Armstrong County.

"SubSurface: Site-Specific Sight & Sound" appears to be the first arts festival in the region to be held in an underground limestone mine, according to Rich Pell, associate professor in CMU's School of Artand co-organizer of the event.

After buses took them deep within the mine, about 130 attendees explored a quarter-mile path transformed by swirling light projections, electronic music performances and art installations, including corn stalks, a person wearing a donkey mask in the restful pose of a TV-watching retiree and a clothesline strung with forgotten socks.

"My students were all approaching this from the perspective of the Anthropocene, which is this idea of the human influence over environment, climate and geology," said Pell, who came upon the mine after looking at old industrial sites for his class' final art critique. "So, I wanted to find a place where their work could speak to that, where you could be inside it."

The journey concluded with a concert in a long, cavernous room. The performance began as an instrumental set and gradually transitioned to electronic music, with purple and teal computer-controlled lighting that visualized sound moving through the room.

Article originally appeared on the CMU News website

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