Creativity Bytes: A Brief Guide To Sound Art

<p>Read this and sound like an expert. Well, sort of.</p>

Here’s a quick reference guide that will seek to explain the trends, terms, and movements of the brave new media world of art and technology. So you can skim, digest, and be a pseudo-expert next time you’re cornered at a Speed Show exhibition in your local cybercafe. Because, hey, life is short and art long. This week: Sound art.

So, what is sound art?
Art that listens to the aesthetics of noise. Whether it be in a sweaty club, concert hall, art gallery, online, on the moon, or inside a glacier. From found sounds to music generated using acoustic or electronic methods, from doors opening to leaves rustling. It can be presented as multimedia, sculpture, installation, created by composers, performers, sound artists, or sound designers. The aim is to search for and highlight new and interesting sounds in new and interesting ways.

Where did it come from?
Possibly a monkey beating a hollow log while the fragmentary noises of the jungle echoed around him. But the first person to explicitly state the joy of sound away from its symbolic function, was French Futurist painter Luigi Russolo. Possibly convinced by the constant clamour of industrial noise that was daily life in the 19th century, he wrote his manifesto The Art of Noises in 1916, celebrating the clanking of machinery with his machine instruments intonarumori—a whole 170 years before Nine Inch Nails. From here, the Futurists, Dadaists, and Surrealists, along with John Cage and his I Ching chance operations, Edgard Varèse and art groups like Fluxus made sure the experimentation continued. Nowadays everything from computers to robotic sculptures to the digital clicks of data transmission to bouncing conch shell and Tibetan cymbal sounds off the moon is marching along to the beat of sound art.

Japanese sound artist Ryoji Ikeda’s “data.matrix”

This week you're really digging…
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s guitar-playing zebra finches (below), where he created a walkthrough aviary at the Barbican, London in the summer of 2010, providing the birds with electric guitars and drum kits so they could randomly rock on.

Nano talk
The sonic boom of sound art will get ever louder, the more adventurous the experimentation, the better. Projecting the sound of a washing machine back in time seems like uncharted waters. Try that.

Describe yourself as…
Noise solution.

Listen, audio, wave, sonic, generate, noise, sound, acoustic, aleatoric.

Difficulty level

Age range

Can you hear that?

To recap: Be experimental in the way you listen.

Next week: Augmented reality art exhibits.