Beginners Guide To Sound Art
Sound art is a form of contemporary art that focuses on sound as its primary medium. It can take many forms, including installations, performances, and sculptures. For beginners interested in exploring this genre, here are some key concepts and examples to get started.
Listening as an Art Form
Sound art challenges the way we listen to the world around us. Instead of simply hearing sound as background noise, sound artists encourage us to actively engage with it as a medium for artistic expression. This means paying close attention to the nuances of sound, from the texture of a particular noise to the way it interacts with the surrounding space. One of my favorite ways to do this, is by sitting on a park bench and listening for the nearest sound, then working outwards to the furthest sound & making note of everything in-between.
The Importance of Space
Sound art often involves creating installations or performances that are site-specific, meaning they are designed to interact with a particular space or environment. This allows the artist to take advantage of the unique acoustic properties of the space, whether it's a resonant cathedral or a busy urban street. Think of Sound Art as something you walk-through & experience, not just something you put on headphones for.
The Use of Technology
Many sound artists incorporate technology into their work, from digital sampling and processing to custom-built hardware and software. This allows them to manipulate sound in ways that would be impossible with traditional instruments or recording techniques. Think about emerging tech & odd methods, and how you can bring them into your own work.
Examples of Sound Art:
Max Neuhaus, "Times Square"
Max Neuhaus was an American sound artist who created a number of site-specific installations throughout his career. One of his most famous works, "Times Square," involved installing a network of speakers beneath the pavement of New York's Times Square. Passersby could interact with the installation by standing on a particular grate, which would trigger a particular sound.
Pauline Oliveros, "Deep Listening"
Pauline Oliveros was an American composer and sound artist who was a pioneer in the field of deep listening, a practice that encourages the listener to focus on the sounds around them and enter into a state of heightened awareness. Oliveros created a number of pieces that were designed to be performed in specific locations, such as "Sonic Meditations," which involved a group of performers creating soundscapes in a natural setting.
Janet Cardiff, "The Forty Part Motet"
Janet Cardiff is a Canadian sound artist who often works with recorded sound to create immersive installations. "The Forty Part Motet" is a piece that features a recording of a 16th-century choral piece, which is played through 40 individual speakers arranged in a circle. The result is an incredibly immersive experience that allows the listener to move around and interact with the sound in a unique way.
Susan Philipsz, "Lowlands"
Susan Philipsz is a Scottish sound artist who often works with recordings of her own voice to create haunting, atmospheric installations. "Lowlands" is a piece that features three separate recordings of the traditional Scottish ballad "Lowlands Away," each played from a different location along a river. The result is a complex and evocative soundscape that invites the listener to explore the surrounding environment.
Tatsuo Miyajima, "Sea of Time"
Tatsuo Miyajima is a Japanese artist who works across a range of media, including sound. "Sea of Time" is a large-scale installation that features a grid of LED lights that pulse in time with a soundtrack of waves crashing on a beach. The effect is mesmerizing and immersive, creating a sense of being submerged in an oceanic environment.
"Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories" by Caleb Kelly
"Audible Geographies: Sound Art and the Reconfiguration of the Sonic" by Gascia Ouzounian
"Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds" by Jean-Francois Augoyard and Henry Torgue
"Sound Art and the Sonic Unconscious" by Christof Migone