Just for Fun: Match the Sound to the Artwork

Fancy a quick game? Try your hand at a very SFMOMA edition of “Guess The Sound.” With help from colleagues at the museum and a library of recordings, we’ve isolated four audio tracks that capture the unexpected musicality produced by works of art.

To play, listen to the audio track and carefully consider what you’re hearing. Is it metal? Is it mud? Is it bowls clinking together? Once you’ve had a chance to consider the sound, guess by selecting one of two artwork titles presented to you. Click “Reveal the Answer” at any time to learn if your suspicions are correct and to access more information about the source material.

Happy listening!

Which artwork makes this delicate “clinking” sound?

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This percussive soundscape comes courtesy of French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s clinamen v.2. You’re hearing the harmony produced by floating porcelain bowls clinking together as they gently circulate on water. A version of this work was presented at SFMOMA as part of the exhibition Soundtracks. Watch below to see the bowls float dreamlike in an indoor pool, and then learn more about the work in the exhibition’s accompanying digital publication.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, clinamen v.2, 2012–ongoing; © Céleste Boursier-Mougenot; courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Which artwork makes this eerie, foreboding sound?

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Recorded by artist and SFMOMA Collections Technical Manager Steven Dye, this audio track captures the interior acoustics of Hesse’s Accretion (1968). The sculpture, made from polyester reinforced with fiberglass, was presented at SFMOMA as part of the 2002 exhibition Eva Hesse. Learn more about the show in an article from the Tate Modern.

Which artwork makes this bubbling, earthy sound?

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This recording, also courtesy of Dye, captures the sounds bubbling up from Rauschenberg’s Mud Muse (1968-1971). The installation featured an aluminum-and-glass vat holding thousands of pounds of mud and was included in SFMOMA’s 2017 retrospective Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules. Read about the show and see photos here.

Which artwork makes this raucous sound?

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It could only be Trophy IV (for John Cage) (1961), one in a series of five sculptures Rauschenberg made to honor friends and collaborators. As befits a tribute to Cage, this dynamic and slightly mischievous sculpture was conceived as a sound work, meant to be “played” rather than simply regarded. Watch an archival video of Rauschenberg “playing” the tribute here.