Klage/Lament

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Sound Installation (with Erin Neff), Paradise Ridge Winery, Marijke’s Sculpture Grove, Santa Rosa, CA., June 2014-May 2015, Beall Center for Art and Technology, UC Irvine 2013-2014 and San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, 2009

Lewis deSoto has employed sound and acoustical phenomena during his career to investigate the experience of space and memory.  Sound is inextricably bound to our perceptions, our experiences, and our emotions.  In this project at the Paradise Ridge in Santa Rosa, CA., he has engaged San Francisco opera singer Erin Neff to translate Hermann Hesse’s wistful poem “Lament” into music.  Four speakers mounted in the trees along a sinuous path in oak and bay tree grove play four unsynchronized tracks, each one a stanza from the poem.  The resulting vocal mystery plays among the trees as Neff’s powerful voice envelopes the listener in a misty atmosphere of musical sound.


“Lament (Klage)” which appears at the end of Hesse’s 1943 novel The Glass Bead Game, is ostensibly written by the protagonist Joseph Knecht. The novel traces Knecht’s life from childhood to maturity.  After achieving great success and respectability, Knecht questions the validity of his position in life and the novel ends abruptly with his untimely death. Following on the heels of this tragic ending, the haunting tone of “Lament” bemoans human-kind’s irreversible journey from birth to death as characterized by unceasing change. No matter our yearning for permanence, the element of change is inevitable.

Klage/Lament was originally created for the exit corridor of the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art in 2009.  This fifty foot corridor was darkened except for a circle of blue light at the end.  When one left the corridor one was outside of the gallery on the street, a strangely disruptive experience to the intense echo and reverberations of the interior.

Klage/Lament was also installed at the Beall Center for Art and Technology at UC Irvine where it was placed among the sycamore trees and echoed off of the adjacent buildings.