Monday, April 8, 2013

Sound Art

Background Noise, Perspectives on Sound Art from Brandon LaBelle published in 2006 is a path down memory lane going back to the early fifties till the new century. It also brings us on a world wide tour in approximately three hundred pages dedicated to the development of sound art. At first, the reading appears daunting, with a dense text, numerous notes and references at the end of each chapter and a few black and white photographs.

After a brief introduction to clarify the difference between sound and music, listening and hearing, the author proceeds to give a mostly chronological analysis of sound art in eighteen chapters grouped into six parts. Starting with a presentation of  John Cage's work and its impact on sound art, the author describes the evolution of sound as it becomes a tool for artists. The inclusion of sound in happenings,  Fluxus, new technologies, conceptual art, Minimalism (sculptures or sound activate the space), all promote the development of sound art. Furthermore, sound in defining the space becomes an architectural element, a material to shape for acoustic design now considered in urban development. Reaching beyond the subject of sound art, the author discusses the social and ecological impact of sound, its repercussions on the health of a community, promoting harmony within ourselves and the universe, initiating poetry and dreams.

All along, carefully selected works are discussed to illustrate the ideas developed in the different chapters and numerous artists are referred to. The dense text can be overwhelming and the author includes summaries, usually at the first person, to make the point. These are very helpful before starting another chapter.
A book to read from cover to cover once and then to keep close by as a tool for further reference.


photographs Flickr sharing:

"Mucilaginous Omniverse" Dimitri Gelfand and Evelina Domnitch, 2011 (standing wave that forms out of oil droplets above a water surface being radiated with sound)

"Piano Preparado" John Cage, photograph taken in 2006

"5 Horizons" Ryoichi Kurokawa, 2010, Digital Music s and Sound Art in Concert

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