Whether you’re listing to soothing ocean sounds or your favorite album, it’s easy to understand the powerful effect that sound has on us. San Francisco is home to a treasure trove of incredible audio experiences ranging from evocative string quartets to immersive theaters of sound. Here are a few must-visit spots for you and your favorite audiophiles to visit.
1. Concerts by candlelight
The extremely popular concert series known simply as Candlelight is a heartfelt and powerful experience. You’ll enjoy events that celebrate artists ranging from Vivaldi to Taylor Swift, and more played by a talented string quartet, in an intimate environment surrounded by hundreds of luminous candles. Here are a few upcoming events in SF:
- Feb. 9 – Candlelight: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac
- Feb. 11 – Candlelight K-Pop: A Tribute to BTS
- Feb. 23 – Candlelight: Featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and More at St. Ignatius Church
- Mar. 16 – Candlelight: A Tribute to Taylor Swift
Located inside The Midway music and arts venue, Envelop occupies an internal room outfitted with 32 speakers that are positioned to create an immersive audio experience that allows audiences to “be within the music.” Events range from sound baths and ocean soundscapes to intimate listening events for popular albums like Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon or Frank Ocean’s Blond. It’s an incredible way to experience your favorite album. The space has yoga class energy with a no-shoe rule and comfy seating on the floor.
Location: 900 Marin Street
There’s no place like Audium. The space, built in 1975, is dedicated to the creation and performance of spatial sound art and is performed in a custom-built facility. A visit to Audium starts in the lobby where sound, video projections, and art set the tone for the experience. After a walk down a darkened hallway, you’ll be seated in a 49-seat theater where 176 speakers fully immerse you in sound. The current performance at Audium features three local sound artists who have created original spatial works over the course of a three-month residency program. They’ll use this one-of-a-kind space to take you on an unforgettable sonic journey.
Location: 1616 Bush Street
4. Sound Bath at Grace Cathedral
SF’s Grace Cathedral is a magnificent Episcopal Church that’s also known to host frequent yoga classes, arts, and music events. Fractals of Sound hosts a monthly sound bath in this palatial space, using light and the natural acoustic of the cathedral to create a deeply relaxing and unique experience. This collective of musicians draws inspiration from a variety of musical traditions across the globe, incorporating crystal bowls, sitar, djembe, and many other instruments to create a unique sonic environment. During the performance, you’re invited to “sink deep into the primal sounds of creation, all from the comfort of your yoga mat or sleeping bag.”
Location: 1100 California Street
5. Sound Healing at The Center SF
The Center is a community hub in Hayes Valley that is dedicated to personal, spiritual, and social transformation. They host a variety of events including sound baths and sound healing sessions throughout the month. These events often incorporate reiki and live musical performances to help soothe anxiety and increase creativity. They also house a wonderful tea house and yoga studio that’s open to the public.
Location: 548 Fillmore Street
6. SFMOMA – “The Visitors”
Back by popular demand, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s “The Visitors” has returned to SFMOMA. The exhibition features nine large video screens projecting Kjartansson and eight of his friends as they present an intimate musical composition. The result is an hour-long piece in a single take, presented from nine different musical perspectives that are both highly individualized and inextricably linked. The piece invites you to appreciate both individual and collective performances as the piece explores layers upon layers of sound and feeling over the course of an hour. Tickets are required to view this exhibit.
7. The Wave Organ
Perch yourself on edge of the bay and let the ocean take the stage. This acoustic sound sculpture, brought to you by The Exploratorium, is activated by waves crashing over its 25 organ pipes. As the tides change so do the subtle harmonies, making you feel like you’re tuning into nature. The wild invention constructed from leftover marble and granite of a bulldozed cemetery may just be the best free show in the Bay.
Location: 83 Marina Green Drive
Featured image: @audiumsf via Instagram