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Sound art

Parent categories: art - music - sound -

Related: art music - experimental music - Musique Concrète - music theory - soundscape - tape-editing

Connoisseurs: Kevin Concannon



Sound art is a new media art practice rooted in early 20th century experimentation. From the Western art historical tradition early examples include the Italian Futurist "Intonarumori" or noise machines created by Luigi Russolo, and subsequent experiments by Dadaists, Surrealists, the Situationist International, Fluxus, Happenings, and many other contemporary practitioners. Russolo stated in his 1913 essay, "The Art of Noise": "This musical evolution is paralleled by the mulitplication of machines" and indeed, as technology evolves--becoming increasingly available, mobile, and integrated throughout our lives, the world of sound art has also exploded into various forms, concerns, and approaches.

Though much sound art and many sound artists are inspired by experimental or "avant garde" music (e.g. John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, Hildegard Westerkamp, Tod Dockstader, Pauline Oliveros) it is interesting to note that works of sound art often seek to be differentiated from "Music" for a variety of formal, conceptual, and political reasons. In part, this is because notable works of sound art have been created by people working in many disciplines and mediums ranging from music composition to visual art, architecture, engineering, anthropology, and filmmaking. In part, the distinction from Music is made in order to signal a new listening experience--one that is more active or interactive than expected of a conventional work of music.

Sound art also frequently distinguishes itself from pure visual art, especially the more blatantly visual mediums of photography, painting, drawing, and video. Sound art enjoys a longstanding relation to physicality and "sculptural" or spatial concerns such as movement, mass, accumulation, and disintegration. Like many genres of contemporary art, sound art is often very interdisciplinary. Common creative techniques include collage and cut-up, repetition, spatial manipulation, and electronic generation and signal processing.

Other artistic lineages from which sound art emerges are spoken word, avant garde poetry, and experimental theater. Well-known early practitioners include Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, and Henri-Martin Barzun of the Zurich-based Dada group, who in 1916 performed works of phonetic poetry or Poème Simulatane (simultaneous poems) at the Cabaret Voltaire. These illogical sound-based compositions emphasized acoustic rather than literal expression. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_art [Oct 2005]

Sound collage

Sound collage is the production of songs, musical compositions, or recordings using portions, or samples, of previously made recordings. Like its visual cousin, the collage work may have a completely different effect than that of the component parts, even if the original parts are completely recognizable.

Sound collage first became a possibility with the widespread use of magnetic tape in the early 1960s. Recording engineers soon discovered that tape could be cut with a razorblade and spliced back together in a different order, and even from different sources. It wasn't long before artists began to explore the new possibilities. Iannis Xenakis is the first well-known composer to have worked with sound collage; other early artists who experimented with it include John Cage, Brion Gysin, and William S. Burroughs. The most famous examples in popular music are to be found in the work of The Beatles: George Martin cut up and randomly reassembled a recording of a carousel in "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, and John Lennon included a long pastiche of sound effects and crowd noises on The Beatles titled "Revolution 9".

The cultural awareness of sound collage was greatly increased in the 1980s and early 1990s due largely to two lawsuits: the first by the Canadian Recording Association against John Oswald for his seminal collage work Plunderphonics and the second by Island Records against the band Negativland for their album U2 (ironically, the latter had nothing to do with sampling and was provoked by Negativland's misleading cover art). The popularity of two new musical genres that included elements of sound collage—rap and house music—over the same period also helped to popularize it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_collage [Jan 2006]

Sound recording in art

Though ill-considered as an artistic medium, sound recordings have been produced by visual artists within a variety of contexts since the beginning of the twentieth century and are numerous. Artists and individual works discussed in the following pages have been selected with an ear toward their individual merits, as representative of more general formal and aesthetic currents and for their significance within the broader context of twentieth century art and popular culture. --Kevin Concannon via http://www.localmotives.com/hoved/tema/nr_2/cut.html [Jan 2006]

Musique Concrète

Musique Concrète (also known as Electroacoustics) is the name given to a class of electronic music produced from editing together tape-recorded fragments of natural and industrial sounds. Concrète (as opposed to "Abstraite", traditional composition) was pioneered in the late 1940s and 1950s, spurred by developments in microphones and the commercial availability of the magnetic tape recorder. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musique_concr%E8te [Aug 2004]

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