Futuristic Concert Venue ‘Sonic Sphere’ Opens at The Shed




Sonic Sphere, The Shed, New York, June 16-July 30, 2023. Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed

 Alex Poots, Artistic Director of The Shed, announced the New York premiere of Sonic Sphere, a revolutionary new architectural space featuring immersive, 3-D sound and light explorations of music by boundary-pushing artists, running June 16 through July 30. 

 The vast, 65-foot-diameter spherical concert hall is suspended in midair in The Shed’s soaring, 115-foot-tall McCourt space. Sonic Sphere is being created by avant-garde consciousness architects Ed Cooke, Merijn Royaards, and Nicholas Christie, and the broader Sonic Sphere community including lighting designer Polina Zakh. Sonic Sphere is based on an idea initially proposed by composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. The artist curation for Sonic Sphere at The Shed is led by Alex Poots. 

“We are excited to bring this architectural, experiential statement to the middle of the most vibrant city in the world. This spherical concert hall asks questions about the type of architecture that best serves our cities and communities. How can it adapt to our changing societal needs, bringing us together at a time when technology is driving us apart.”

Sonic Sphere, The Shed, New York, June 16-July 30, 2023. Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed

Inside the sphere, an audience of 250 people congregates in specially designed seating and a netted area in the center to experience music as a spatialized soundscape created by more than 100 speakers that move sound above, below, through, and around their bodies. Dynamic lighting on the sphere’s surface completes the hyperreal, multisensory journey. Multiple 45-minute live and recorded sets will be offered each day including: 

•  Transformative listening sessions and complete recorded albums featuring bespoke remixes of The xx’s essential, self-titled debut album and influential composer Steve Reich’s groundbreaking Music for 18 Musicians

•  A playlist tracing one branch of electronic music’s family tree by legendary Detroit techno artist, DJ, and producer Carl Craig and a never-before-heard compilation by hypnotic Brooklyn-based musician, singer, DJ, and producer Yaeji

•  Rising London-based singer-songwriter-producer yunè pinku on June 14 and 16; Jersey Club Queen DJ and producer UNIIQU3 on June 23 and 24; world-renowned pianist Igor Levit on June 30 and July 1 performing Morton Feldman’s Palais de Mari in collaboration with visual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija who is creating a visual counterpoint for Levit’s performances; live performances by electronic music producer, drummer, artist, and activist Madame Gandhi on July 12 and 13 

Sonic Sphere, The Shed, New York, June 16-July 30, 2023. Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed

The Sonic Sphere team works through rapid iteration. The version at The Shed is the 11th and most advanced Sphere so far, after iterations of increasing size and technical sophistication, beginning at Chateau du Feÿ’s creative commune, and appearing since in London, Mexico, at Black Rock City, and in Miami. 

“As a teenager I had read in an obscure book of Stockhausen’s Kugelauditorium, which appeared at the 1970 World Expo Osaka fair, alongside the first mobile phone. It was obviously a ridiculously cool idea, far more interesting and important than the phone. In the decades that followed, I became increasingly confused that since 1970 our society had created 15 billion mobile phones but no further spherical concert halls. The Sonic Sphere project aims to re-prioritize shared real-world experience and to make the outer horizons of consciousness accessible to all, in the name of new modes of perception and action for a world that requires them,” said Ed Cooke, Sonic Sphere Co-Founder. 

“My first experience of clubbing was during a cold winter in early ’90s Rotterdam. The interference patterns of visual, sonic, and kinetic waveform transmissions that flooded the dance floor and enveloped me were deeply transformative. Along the dance floor’s perimeter, bass-bins sent out shock waves that rattled your ribcage and tweeter horns above them fired a percussive hailstorm into the twitching crowd. Waveform transmissions collided as ephemeral geometries that liquefied the physical architecture, turning the shadows on the walls into windows to infinity. Sound and space had switched sides; steel and concrete were evanescent, and the DJ was an architect. It was my first experience of how the combined forces of music, light, and collectivity can suspend the laws of physics. Sonic Sphere is a sensory laboratory that does exactly that; it bends time, expands consciousness, and punctures our perception of reality,” said Merijn Royaards, Sonic Sphere Co-Founder.

Sonic Sphere, The Shed, New York, June 16-July 30, 2023. Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed

“In a visually orientated age, Sonic Sphere centers the wonder of sound and music in an interdisciplinary experience,” said Alex Poots, Artistic Director of The Shed. “The creative invention and sheer ambition of Sonic Sphere offers such a range of possibilities to explore for years to come.” 

Ticketing ~ Tickets for Sonic Sphere go on sale May 5 (Shed member presale begins on May 3). Sonic Sphere runs Tuesday through Sunday with multiple programs offered throughout the day. All tickets are general admission. The listening platform is entered via three flights of stairs or an accessible lift. For additional information and tickets, visit theshed.org.

Special Event ~ This year’s Mirror Ball celebrates the opening of Sonic Sphere on June 28 at The Shed. The party will include performances by Music for Heart and Breath Trio (Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda, and Parker Shper) and Merijn Royaards (Sonic Sphere’s Creative Director), as well as a new mix by Brooklyn-based musician, singer, DJ, and producer Yaeji and a live set by electronic music producer, drummer, artist, and activist Madame Gandhi to close out the night. The benefit will support The Shed’s future productions that welcome innovative art and ideas. Tickets will be available May 3. Single tickets $250. VIP packages start at $500. For more information about Mirror Ball email Jessica Kepler, Associate Director of Events, Jessica.Kepler@theshed.org.

About the Sonic Sphere Creative Team ~ Created by avant-garde consciousness architects Ed Cooke, Merijn Royaards, and Nicholas Christie as a community project, Sonic Sphere aims to challenge the relationship between technology and experience, and proposes a new type of participatory cultural space: one that allows us to invent and share real-world experiences with each other as well as being a new playground for artists. In the exponential age of AI and VR, Sonic Sphere rejects any notion that consciousness is computation, or that it is solitary, and instead asserts that the path to infinity lies in shared human experience. The Sonic Sphere community embraces rapid iteration and continuous reinvention. 

Sonic Sphere, The Shed, New York, June 16-July 30, 2023. Photo: Ahad Subzwari. Courtesy The Shed

Upcoming at The Shed 

KAGAMI: The groundbreaking mixed reality concert composed by legendary pianist, Ryuichi Sakamoto, runs June 7 to July 2, 2023 in The Shed’s Griffin Theater. Tickets go on sale May 5. 

Open Call: The Shed’s commissioning program returns with a new group of emerging NYC artists. Ten visual artists will present new work in a group exhibition fall 2023: Minne Atairu, Jake Brush, Cathy Linh Che & Christopher Radcliff, Armando Guadalupe Cortés, Lizania Cruz, Bryan Fernandez, Luis A. Gutierrez, Jeffrey Meris, Calli Roche, and Sandy Williams IV. In summer 2024, in The Shed’s Griffin Theater, the remaining eight commissions will feature immersive, multidisciplinary performances by Kyle Dacuyan, The Dragon Sisters, Kayla Hamilton, Nile Harris, NIC Kay, Asia Stewart, Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre, and Garrett Zuercher. 

Here We Are: The final musical by composer Stephen Sondheim begins September 2023 in The Shed’s Griffin Theater. 

More about The Shed, The Vessel, The Edge and Hudson Yards.

Take a walk through Bella Abzug Park and view Fanny Allié: Shadows, or take a walk on the largest Green Roof in New York City next door at The Javits Center. Enjoy the artistic work of Xenobia Bailey as part of MTA Arts & Design at the Hudson Yards #7 Line. Take a walk on the High Line to The Plinth to view Pamela Rosenkranz: Old Tree.