Thinkery21’s ‘Sounds and Sips’ is an out-of-the-box approach to exploration for adults

Brooke Sjoberg

The Austin Children’s Museum is giving adults an opportunity to explore the physicality of sound, with a little booze thrown in for kicks.

An offshoot of the Austin Children’s Museum, the Thinkery is a place for children and their families to play intelligently. In order to include more people in the creative ways of thinking encouraged by Thinkery, Thinkery21 was created to engage adults age 21 and over with drinks, music and hands-on activities exploring different themes. Their latest event, “Sounds and Sips,” will focus on different explorations of sound in music and a tactile study of vibrations with scientists, musicians and designers. Tickets are still available for purchase on Thinkery’s website, and the event is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, April 12.

Performances and activities at the event include a jam session with Ponytrap’s robotic drums, interactive songwriting lead by Mother Falcon Music Lab and a giant inner ear model which can be walked through, provided by Illuminear Tinnitus and Audiology. A “Circuits of Sound” activity where attendees can learn how the brain processes their favorite sounds alongside Harris Lab with the UT Center for Learning and Memory will be included, among other offerings through partnership with the University. These events are provided by local artists and businesses in partnership with Thinkery21.

The “Sounds and Sips” block party will be hosted in a partnership with the Austin Children’s Museum, The Golden Hornet music conservatory and Alamo Drafthouse Mueller. Thinkery21’s public programs manager Todd Moore said the party is just one of the many ways the museum engages older crowds. He said the team of three responsible for event programming consulted with experts in music and sound in order to maintain the integrity of its educational aspects.

“I will reach out to partners and pitch theme ideas or see if they have ideas,” Moore said. “We pick a theme, hold a brainstorming session and then we bring on experts, scientists, school groups and all kinds of partners in line with that theme.”

Golden Hornet, a partner of the museum and a major focal point of the block party, will be premiering it sound event, “The Sound of Science.” The project will be performed by cellist Jeffrey Ziegler for attendees to hear and interact with as a piece of music, bridging the gap between music and the arts via their shared natures of inquiry.

The work is inspired by both living and dead scientists and their practices, which influenced their composers. Golden Hornet managing director Kate Murray said artistic director Graham Reynolds conceived the project to give voice to what he described as the struggle between arts and science in terms of funding. The project features composers and scientists from around the globe.

“It’s going to encourage people to engage with both the general divide between the arts and sciences, to think about how sound and science are so intertwined,” Murray said. “It’ll give them specific opportunities to experience the science that’s informing this project specifically.”

Reynolds has focused on neuroscience and environmental science, to name a few fields out of the many which have influenced this project. While Reynolds conceived the project and spearheaded its development, he also contributed to the project with a couple of his own compositions.

“I talked to Barry Chernoff, the head of the department of the environment at Wesleyan University, about his work in the Amazon region and heard his stories and details and translated them to sound,” Reynolds said. “He told a story about his trips, and I treat that narrative like I would a film or a ballet, taking that story and putting it to music. I also did some very literal things, where I got some field recordings and then manipulated those.”

Reynolds said this translates to an audio story which the listener can interpret in relation to their own experiences between the arts and sciences, or whatever meaning they apply to it. Having spoken at length with Reynolds about his creation, Murray said she believes the listening experience has the potential to be felt deeply by the audience at “Sounds and Sips.”

“I think that the overall goal and hope is that the audience members will come in and discover an access point that they may otherwise be unaware of,” Murray said. “They might walk in thinking of themselves as a science person, but then be reminded of a musical or artistic experience they had which reconnects them to this creative capacity that they have. You might walk in and be a composer and be reminded of where you found inspiration in a science class.”