What is ‘Sound Art’?
Sound art lives the twilight zone wherein visual art, sound, music and technology come together. Early 20th century artists who considered “sound” as the matter of their work lay the historic foundations until the term “sound installation” emerged in 1971. Nowadays sound art is referring to a vast collection of audible installations and sound sculptures. Important exhibitions recognised the importance of the genre: “Sonambiente” (Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1996/2006), “Sonic Boom” (Hayward Gallery, London, 2000), “Frequenzen” (Shirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2002), “Sonic Process” (Macba Barcelona/ Centre Pompidou Paris, 2002-03) and “Son & Lumière” (Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2004).
In sound art, the traditional form in which music is conveyed is abandoned in favour of a new sound/space experience. As with a visit to an exhibition, recipients are able to configure the chronological and spatial organisation of the way that they perceive things.
The historic sources of sound art can be described on the one hand as being the opening up of music to noise and the associated expansion of the material and the incorporation of chance processes and ideas of space into the musical composition, and on the other hand as the integration of sounds and noises into the configuration of sculptures and installations.
In the area of contemporary music, sound art is understood more as an expansion of the musical space. On the contemporary art scene, which is increasingly shaped by the art market and the events culture, it has rarely proved possible so far to adequately present artistic works through the medium of sound. Among other reasons, this is down to their great spatial reference and ephemeral nature. Sound art has so far proven to be more of an ideal medium for charging the atmosphere of places which, thanks to their architecture or because of their historical and social context, already have a certain aura, and for turning them into a special venue for experiencing new things.
Sound installations do not have a fixed time frame, do not follow any specified dramaturgical dynamics and rarely display any narrative structures. The architectural, social and historic space is the subject of artistic debate. This location-specific quality links sound art to individual spaces which you can enter and leave in an open time frame. This is why it is very difficult to reproduce sound art at different places with the same level of resonance. The venues and standards of traditional art transmission (museums, concert halls and theatres) are generally avoided and locations in the public domain and unusual venues are preferred.
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