Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beyond Music, Between Categories

Just finished a pretty amazing book Sound Art by Alan Licht. Having the opposition between music as performance, on the one hand, and sound art as a kind of exhibition on the other as the main point, it covers many curious aspects lying here and there, and somewhere in between. The ongoing dialogue between the visual and music/sound, synaesthesia and asynchronia as artistic means, site specificity and spatiality of sound, environmental elements as sound making devices for an artist... and much more to read about.


Here's some quotes/ideas that I like:

"The sense of hearing cannot be turned off at will. There are no earlids."

"I’m not a musician … but I work with sound. I guess I’m a composer."

"Music ... is like an amusement park ride: there’s a beginning, middle, and an end to it; it’s a short, consolidated experience of thrills and chills that can be readily reexperienced by simply going on the ride again, listening to the song again. Sound art, besides its intended connotation of ... a trip to a gallery or a museum, can also be like a trip to the zoo, the dog pound, the park, the moon, or to your fridge, depending on its (or one’s) orientation."

"Art could be environment rather than object and so could sound. Rather than be packaged into discrete chunks (songs, compositions) it could be an ongoing presence that simply became part of the surroundings themselves."

"Looking at a pair of speakers on a stage totally undermines appreciation of the work..."

"A visual artwork manages to freeze a moment in time as an image; installations that use loops or drones are an attempt to sustain a sonic moment long enough to examine detail (as you would with a work of art)."

"Sounds that repeat, that are continuous and that have long duration defy the natural acoustic mortality of becoming silent."

"You can only hold a note vocally for a short period of time until you run out of breath; psychologically, I believe this to be part of the equation of silence with death. The use of echo and delay to elongate a sound’s time duration is a basic technique to serve this dual purpose of time extension and opposing silence (and lengthening life itself, on a subliminal level)."

"Music speaks to a listener as a human being, with all of the complexity that entails, but sound art ... speaks to the listener as a living denizen of the planet, reacting to sound and environment as any animal would (with all the complexity that entails)."

SUMMARY: All in all, it's a very good and inspirational work to learn to listen and think "beyond music, between categories." It also has a bunch of images and a CD inside.

Installation view of speakers and bottles by Steve Roden

Long Aeolian Piano: sixty-foot-long piano strings attached to sound boards on a farm in Canada

122 Aktion by Hermann Nitsch

 Cube of melted LP records (12 x 1 2x 12 inches)

People listening to Water Whiste by Max Neuhaus

Me listening to Harmonic Bridge from the included CD

BTW, the book is available for reading online here.

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