John Luther Adams's The Place Where You Go to Listen (2006), a permanent sound-and-light installation at the Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska, resonates strongly with the geography and ecology of the composer's place of residence. The audiovisual experience is generated through a computer programme that translates real-time data streams from geophysical events into sound and colour signals. The Place functions as an artistic mirror, absorbing data from natural phenomena and reflecting it back to the listener in a deliberately allusive way. As a result, those present are invited to raise their awareness to the ‘unheard vibrations’ of the natural world.
Upon entering the installation, the listener perceives an ongoing, harmonically dense hum. Through immersion, he or she notices change in both the location from which sounds project and the properties of audio and visual signals. Drawing on information theory, this article investigates the process whereby Adams renders scientific data into an audiovisual presentation as well as the role the composer and audience play in attributing meaning to this environmentally driven work. By examining the communicative layers of the installation and exploring the perceptual tendencies of the listener, we can better understand how The Place raises environmental awareness.