Networked_Music_Review

KUNST.EE – Sound Art Special

sound.jpgKUNST.EE Magazine – Estonian Quarterly of Art and Visual CultureHelikunsti eri / Sound Art Special [or download the PDF]: What is this that we call sound art? The medium of sound is elusive. It is immaterial, or isn’t it? Under special circumstances we can see it or feel it. Yet, in everyday life, our sense of hearing provides an important interface as the other senses. So what would drive artists and others to use sound as a means of artistic expression and where do we make the difference between sound and music? It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the term “sound art” first started to surface commonly among papers and conferences and international festivals of music and art. It would take another 10 years before “sound art” would appear as an acceptable field among notable exhibitions operating on an international scale. The debates and discussions about the use of sound remain as open as ever, even as “sound art” becomes a legitimate area of practice within the wider context of artistic practices. This is certainly true, with myself and other colleagues, even after 10 years of practice and exploration with sound (if we dig deeper there are many artists with much longer histories and paths across disciplines with their use of sound). It is on this rich and fertile ground that I attempt to approach the many angles of this invisible medium. But with so much material to draw from, the task of editing a special section on sound art does not come without challenges. In my experience of working with sound within different contexts (US, Western and Eastern Europe), I have seen very little consensus as to what sound art actually is. The field is defined by many practitioners, but each with his own path. Therefore I see the topic of what “sound art” actually is to be an area for open exploration rather than definition. The line of people working with sound may seem new but the references to the artistic use of sound stretch back well into the origins of the modern era. The historical trajectories are many and often stem from isolated individuals or groups working anywhere from the edges of political expression to the establishments of technological innovation. Also, we must consider the nature of the medium. Because of it’s immateriality, it is impossible to simply reproduce in print or represent as an image. For this I am thankful to be able to include an audio CD with the magazine. The aim with the CD is to illustrate the examples of sound art practices in Estonia through one particular trajectory, those related to MoKS in south Estonia. Finally there is the challenge of talking about sound or describing it in written language when we cannot hear the sound itself. This entails the development of a somewhat specialized language to properly articulate the concepts and ideas presented. And here we find the possibly the greatest challenged faced herein. As a foreigner living in Estonia I must rely on my native english language to compile much of the texts, so I am very grateful for the translation work and assistance with editing I have received. My intention with the Helikunst eri is not to present an authoritative view on the artistic use of sound or give and official history on “sound art” (as there is none). Rather I wish to show that “sound art” has and can offer a great number of diverse uses as with any other contemporary media (such as video, painting, performance, sculpture, etc.). The interest here is to inspire both young artists and experienced professionals to consider the importance of sound by raising awareness on this unique medium and show the relation of sound to our wider sensory experience of art. With that said, let us break the silence and enter into the noise to listen and see what we can hear. – John Grzinich


Jan 25, 2008
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Networked_Music_Review (NMR) is a research blog that focuses on emerging networked musical explorations.

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