San Francisco is home base for some of the world's greatest aural explorers. An orchestra comprised of toys or insects, flames that sing arias, organs played by the lapping of the sea, or minuets written by the subtle movement of a composer's limbs are not uncommon here -- but they are remarkable. Every other year, Soundwave brings these distinct and daring artists together for a summer-long fete staged within museums, nightclubs, abandoned bunkers, rolling buses, and open fields.
This year's festival opens with "The Beginning of the End," a night of art, science, and sound set against the closing cycle of the Mayan calendar. Shannon O'Malley, author of Apocalypse Cakes, offers sugary dainties, while Oakland's hypnotic space-rock quintet the Lumerians holds court in the piazza. But visitors should be as intrepid as their hosts. Exploring the museum's coral reefs may reveal guitar gods among fishes. In the planetarium, hear the Aurora Borealis stretched across 12 strings. Have your future read by the Cellar Ensemble's sound-and-light oracle, play music on an "empathetic facial responder," draw pictures with light on the "Lumisketch," or simply meditate on the sound of the earth moving under your feet with seismic sound artist Stephen Hurrel. Whichever path you choose, this will be quite an introduction to the season.
"The Beginning of the End," starts at 6 p.m. at the California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse (at Martin Luther King Jr., in Golden Gate Park), S.F. Admission is $12.