Jackson Pollock. One: Number 31, 1950. 1950. Oil and enamel paint on canvas, 8’ 10” x 17’ 5 5/8” (269.5 x 530.8 cm). Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange). Conservation was made possible by the Bank of America Art Conservation Project. © 2020 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

A Portable Embrace

Conor Bourgal has created a soundtrack to keep you company in front of a painting, or when you’re alone in a city.
Conor Bourgal Mar 13, 2020

It’s about 15 minutes by subway from MoMA in Midtown to MoMA PS1 in Queens. We took this timeframe as a creative prompt to invite musicians, writers, and artists to produce an original work.

Now based in Colorado, Conor Bourgal draws from his experience growing up near New York City, where one feels “the paradox of increasing connectivity but also isolation due to technology.” While making the original musical piece “A Portable Embrace,” he imagined “expanding the boundaries of a place like a museum,” and standing in front of Jackson Pollock’s One Number 31, 1950 (1950) at MoMA, a painting that stretches over 17 feet.

The track is composed from software synths and recorded sounds, processed in a program called Max MSP. Listen for a friend whispering, which becomes “crackling white noise that sounds like rain or maybe a campfire.” There’s also a harmonium and a field recording of people playing Skee-Ball.

As Bourgal explained, “Early on, I got the image of a future where nature is overtaking the city. Waves crashing all around. And it’s dark, even in the day. I imagine the rider is overwhelmed by the world in this future, and really needs a break. I picture them sighing.”

Conor Bourgal is a composer and producer based in Colorado; he also records under the name The Changing Colors.