Sound art  

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"David Toop curated the sound art exhibition Sonic Boom (2000) at the Hayward Gallery în London."--Sholem Stein

The Music of Gounod, a 'thoughtform' from Thought Forms (1901) by Annie Besant & Charles Webster Leadbeater
The Music of Gounod, a 'thoughtform' from Thought Forms (1901) by Annie Besant & Charles Webster Leadbeater

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Sound art is an artistic discipline in which sound is utilised as a primary medium or material. Like many genres of contemporary art, sound art may be interdisciplinary in nature, or be used in hybrid forms.

In Western art, early examples include Luigi Russolo's Intonarumori or noise intoners (1913), and subsequent experiments by Dadaists, Surrealists, the Situationist International, and in Fluxus events and other Happenings. Because of the diversity of sound art, there is often debate about whether sound art falls within the domains of visual art or experimental music, or both. Other artistic lineages from which sound art emerges are conceptual art, minimalism, site-specific art, sound poetry, electro-acoustic music, spoken word, avant-garde poetry, sound scenography, and experimental theatre.


Origin of term

According to Judy Dunaway's paper on the history of Sound Art, the term "began to be used loosely in the avant-garde scene in the 1970s." One of the first published uses of the term was in Something Else Press in their 1974 Yearbook.

The first use "as the title of an exhibition at a major museum was 1979’s Sound Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA)," featuring Maggie Payne, Connie Beckley, and Julia Heyward. The curator, Barbara London defined the term thusly, "'Sound art' pieces are more closely allied to art than to music, and are usually presented in the museum, gallery, or alternative space."

Later, in 1983, the art historian Don Goddard would expand on this, writing about an exhibition called "Sound/Art" at The Sculpture Center in New York City in 1983 "It may be that sound art adheres to curator Hellermann's perception that 'hearing is another form of seeing,' that sound has meaning only when its connection with an image is understood... The conjunction of sound and image insists on the engagement of the viewer, forcing participation in real space and concrete, responsive thought, rather than illusionary space and thought."

Sound installation

Sound installation is an intermedia and time-based art form. It is an expansion of an art installation in the sense that it includes the sound element and therefore the time element. The main difference with a sound sculpture is that a sound installation has a three-dimensional space and the axes with which the different sound objects are being organized are not exclusively internal to the work, but also external. A work of art is an installation only if it makes a dialog with the surrounding space. A sound installation is usually site-specific, but sometimes it can be readapted to other spaces. It can be made either in closed or open spaces, and context is fundamental in determining how a sound installation will be aesthetically perceived. The difference between a regular art installation and a sound installation is that the latter contains a time element, which gives the visiting public the option to stay longer to explore the development of the sound over time. This temporal factor also gives the audience an incentive to explore the space more thoroughly and investigate the disposition of the different sounds in space.

Sound installations sometimes use interactive art technology (computers, sensors, mechanical and kinetic devices, etc.), but they can also simply use sound sources placed at different points in space (such as speakers), or acoustic instrument materials such as piano strings played by a performer or by the public (see Paul Panhuysen). In the context of museums, this combination of interactive technology and multi-channel speaker distribution is sometimes referred to as sound scenography.

Sound structure in sound installations

  1. The simplest sound form is a repeating sound loop. This is mostly used in Ambient music-like art, and in this case the sound is not the determinant factor of the art work.
  2. The most used sound structure is the open form, since the public can decide to experience a sound installation for just a few minutes or for a longer period of time. This obliges the artist to construct a sound organization that is capable of working well in both cases.
  3. There is also the possibility to have a linear sound structure, where sound develops in the same way as in a musical composition.

Sound sculpture

Sound sculpture is an intermedia and time-based art form in which sculpture or any kind of art object produces sound, or the reverse (in the sense that sound is manipulated in such a way as to create a sculptural as opposed to temporal form or mass). Most often sound sculpture artists were primarily either visual artists or composers, not having started out directly making sound sculpture.

Cymatics and kinetic art have influenced sound sculpture. Sound sculpture is sometimes site-specific.

Sound Artist and Professor of Art at Claremont Graduate University Michael Brewster described his own works as "Acoustic Sculptures" as early as 1970. Grayson described sound sculpture in 1975 as "the integration of visual form and beauty with magical, musical sounds through participatory experience."

Sound sculptures with Wikipedia articles

See also


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sound art" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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