Technology, spiritualism linked in Art Institute sound exhibit

One tap, then another, then a rapid-fire sequence. Silence, interrupted by a sudden chorus of clicks and clacks. The sounds emerge from a row of mysterious metal objects, with no evident human volition. Yet there’s a sense of urgency in this indecipherable conversation, a message trying to get through.

This is Matthew Ostrowski’s “Summerland,” on view at the Albany Museum of History and Art through Jan. 3. A sound installation designed for 24 antique telegraph sounders, the piece is inspired by the overlap of science and spiritualism during the mid-19th century.

The tapping of a telegraph machine might seem to exist at the opposite end of the believability spectrum from the rapping sounds purportedly made by spirits during séances. But at the time, both had an aura of the supernatural about them.

“The telegraph was the first piece of technology using electricity that made it into any kind of circulation

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