Sound art is a diverse group of art practices that considers wide notions of sound, listening and hearing as its predominant focus. There are often distinct relationships forged between the visual and aural domains of art and perception by sound artists.
Like many genres of contemporary art, sound art is interdisciplinary in nature, or takes on hybrid forms. Sound art often engages with the subjects of acoustics, psychoacoustics, electronics, noise music, audio media and technology (both analog and digital), found or environmental sound, explorations of the human body, sculpture, film or video and an ever-expanding set of subjects that are part of the current discourse of contemporary art.
From the Western art historical tradition early examples include Luigi Russolo's Intonarumori or noise intoners, and subsequent experiments by Dadaists, Surrealists, the Situationist International, and in Fluxus happenings. Because of the diversity of sound art, there is often debate about whether sound art falls within the domain of either the visual art or experimental music categories, or both. Other artistic lineages from which sound art emerges are conceptual art, minimalism, site-specific art, sound poetry, spoken word, avant-garde poetry, and experimental theatre.
Scottish artist Susan Philipsz's 2010 British Turner Prize win for her piece Lowlands (overlapping recordings of the artist singing an ancient Scottish lament in three different versions, played back over a loudspeaker system, without any visual component) was seen as an important boost for this relatively new genre (it was the first time a work of sound art won this prestigious prize), and, in winning an art prize, again highlighted the genre's blurred boundaries with other, more visual artforms.
In the same year, British artist Haroon Mirza won the Northern Art Prize for his sculptural installation that bought together video, sculptural assemblages and works from Leeds Art Gallery collection to compose a piece of music.
Origin of the term in the United States
The earliest documented use of the term in the U.S. is from a catalogue for a show called "Sound/Art" at The Sculpture Center in New York City, created by William Hellerman in 1983. The show was sponsored by "The SoundArt Foundation," which Hellerman founded in 1982. The artists featured in the show were as follows: Vito Acconci, Connie Beckley, Bill and Mary Buchen, Nicolas Collins, Sari Dienes and Pauline Oliveros, Richard Dunlap, Terry Fox, William Hellermann, Jim Hobart, Richard Lerman, Les Levine, Joe Lewis, Tom Marioni, Jim Pomeroy, Alan Scarritt, Carolee Schneeman, Bonnie Sherk, Keith Sonnier, Norman Tuck, Hannah Wilke, Yom Gagatzi. The following is an excerpt from the catalogue essay by art historian Don Goddard: "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 art organizations and festivals
- List of topics related to Sound Art
- Acoustic ecology
- Work of art
- Electronic music
- Installation art
- Noise Music
- Performance art
- Radio art
- Sound installation
- Sound poetry
- Sound sculpture
- Visual music
Sources and further reading
- Attali, Jacques. 1985. Noise: The Political Economy of Music, translated by Brian Massumi, foreword by Fredric Jameson, afterword by Susan McClary. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-1286-2 (cloth) ISBN 0-8166-1287-0 (pbk.)
- Bandt, Ros. 2001. Sound Sculpture: Intersections in Sound and Sculpture in Australian Artworks. Sydney: Craftsman House. ISBN 1-877004-02-2.
- Cage, John. 1961. "Silence: Lectures and Writings". Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. (Paperbak reprint edition 1973, ISBN ISBN 0-8195-6028-6)
- Cox, Christoph. 2003. "Return to Form: Christoph Cox on Neo-modernist Sound Art—Sound—Column." Artforum (November): [pages].
- Cox, Christoph. 2009. "Sound Art and the Sonic Unconscious". Organised Sound 14, no. 1:19–26.
- Cox, Christoph. 2011. "Beyond Representation and Signification: Toward a Sonic Materialism". Journal of Visual Culture 10, no. 2:145-161.
- Cox, Christoph, and Daniel Warner (eds.). 2004. Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1615-5.
- Drobnick, Jim (ed.). 2004. Aural Cultures. Toronto: YYZ Books; Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery Editions. ISBN 0-920397-80-8.
- Hegarty, Paul. 2007. Noise Music: A History. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8264-1726-8 (hardcover) ISBN 978-0-8264-1727-5 (pbk)
- Hellerman, William, and Don Goddard. 1983. Catalogue for "Sound/Art" at The Sculpture Center, New York City, May 1–30, 1983 and BACA/DCC Gallery June 1–30, 1983.
- Kahn, Douglas. 2001. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-61172-4
- Kim-Cohen, Seth. 2009. In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art. New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-2971-1
- LaBelle, Brandon. 2006. Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art. New York and London: The Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-1844-9 (cloth) ISBN 0-8264-1845-7 (pbk)
- Lander, Dan, and Micah Lexier (eds.). 1990. Sound by Artists. Toronto: Art Metropole/Walter Phillips Gallery.
- Licht, Alan. 2007. Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories (with accompanying compact disc recording). New York: Rizzoli International Publications. ISBN 0-8478-2969-3
- Lucier, Alvin, and Douglas Simon. 1980. Chambers. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-5042-6.
- Nechvatal, Joseph. 2000. "Towards a Sound Ecstatic Electronica". The Thing.
- Oliveros, Pauline. 1984. Software for People. Baltimore: Smith Publications. ISBN 0-914162-59-4 (cloth) ISBN 0-914162-60-8 (pbk)
- Paik, Nam June. 1963. "Post Music Manifesto," Videa N Videology. Syracuse, New York: Everson Museum of Art.
- Peer, René van. 1993. Interviews with Sound Artists. Eindhoven: Het Apollohuis.
- Schaefer, Janek, Bryan Biggs, Christoph Cox, and Sara-Jayne Parsons. 2012. "Janek Schaefer: Sound Art: A Retrospective". Liverpool: The Bluecoat. ISBN 978-0-9538896-8-6.
- Schafer, R. Murray. 1977. The Soundscape. Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books. ISBN 0-89281-455-1
- Schulz, Berndt (ed.). 2002. Resonanzen: Aspekte der Klangkunst. Heidelberg: Kehrer. ISBN 3-933257-86-7. (Parallel text in German and English)
- Skene, Cameron. 2007. "Sonic Boom". The Montreal Gazette (13 January).
- Toop, David. 2004. Haunted Weather: Music, Silence, and Memory. London: Serpent's Tail. ISBN 1-85242-812-0 (cloth), ISBN 1-85242-789-2 (pbk.)
- Valbonesi, Ilari. A.A.A.A.A.A.A. Cercasi Sound Art. ARTE E CRITICA, ISSUE 64, (2010)
- Wilson, Dan. 2011. "Sonics in the Wildernesses - A Justification." The Brooklyn Rail (April)
- Wishart, Trevor. 1996. On Sonic Art, new and revised edition, edited by Simon Emmerson (with accompanying compact disc recording). Contemporary Music Studies 12. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers. ISBN 3-7186-5846-1 (cloth) ISBN 3-7186-5847-X (pbk.) ISBN 3-7186-5848-8 (CD recording)