Sonic Pardee

Double whammy: I showed up for the last tour of the Pardee Home Museum during the run of the Here and Now projects, in which Floor Vahn created three sound installations at that historic home in Oakland.

I’ve heard Floor’s soundtracks twice before, and they’ve struck me as moody and evocative invitations to linger and be quiet. There’s something about them that beg to be experienced physically. The compositions involved strings and other acoustic instruments, and are usually played at a substantial volume—the way real acoustic instruments permeate spaces. Her sound pieces partially recorded at, and played back in, three rooms at Pardee Home Museum, upheld and enhanced my expectations. I don’t know much about sound as an art medium, but Floor’s Sonic Pardee pieces were clear and articulate, well-researched, and a bit humorous and sad.

The Pardee Home Museum tour was also a delight.

(I usually have mixed feelings about old estate houses. California’s history involves significant anti-Chinese legislation and sentiment. It may seem like old news to most people, but for me, standing in homes of the 1880s élite reifies the privileged protected by those policies.)

Pardee is a historic home museum that’s more quirky than your average home museum. The Board decided to keep the home as it was in the 1980s. It’s a curiosity. Alongside Belle Epoch artifacts and collectibles, including hundreds of candlesticks and beautiful old symphonias, you’ll see amazing, mismatched chairs and a 1960s television set. There’s a case overflowing with scrimsaws, a beautiful dining room with loads of cut and blown glass sets. Old writing desks feature accoutrements like boxes of labels with gorgeous typography. My favorites were the light fixtures, especially a glass-photograph-paneled-lightbox-chandelier by Carleton Watkins featuring images of Yosemite. There was also an amazing billiards room.

It all seemed a bit mad, and quite enjoyable. Don’t miss the cupola, where 360 degree views can be seen.

Pardee Home Museum offers tours year-round. You can also book high tea in their lovely dining room. On July 4th, they’re hosting a “Stereopticon Ice Cream Social.” Sounds fun.


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