© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Editor's weekly: An ocean of information

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 22, 2010 - As a word person, I'm fascinated by the power of art to communicate without words.

One of those powerful communications happened last week at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts thanks to an art installation by Ann Hamilton and music by Gyorg Kurtag via violinist David Halen and soprano Susan Narucki.

There were words involved, too - but just snippets from newspapers Hamilton projected on the walls and disjointed excerpts from the writing of Franz Kafka, which formed the text of the songs. The swirl of music and visual art conjured a dreamlike atmosphere, leaving the audience awash in fleeting thoughts, some trivial and some potentially profound.

In the Beacon office, we often talk about the ocean of information that engulfs us in the digital age. At the Pulitzer, the art seemed to express this condition. You'd think that having unlimited data at our fingertips would make us feel empowered, but it's as likely to make me feel overwhelmed. You'd think more information would make us feel more connected, but it's as likely to make me feel alienated. At the Kurtag concert, the words washed over me in enticing fragments, but the meaning of each fragment danced tantalizingly out of reach.

Last night, I visited the Pulitzer again for a very different concert -- Shahrokh Yadegari's "Intervals" -- and came away feeling a very different effect. Hamilton's swirling words and images were the same. But the ethereal voices of sopranos Christine Brewer and Elizabeth Zharoff, improvising with each other and looping echoes of themselves, created the sense of connection among the words, images, sounds and all that surrounded us. Everything seemed part of a greater whole.

So it seems that the elements that surround us hold the potential for both chaos and connection. That challenge - so eloquently and succinctly communicated by images and notes - is what I'll remember as I return to work in the digital world.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.