Sound art and music: philosophy, composition, performance

Dack, John ORCID logoORCID:, Spinks, Tansy ORCID logoORCID: and Stanović, Adam, eds. (2020) Sound art and music: philosophy, composition, performance. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK. ISBN 9781527557819. [Book]


This book is not an attempt to define terms, parameters, or disciplinary borders. Instead it seeks to celebrate the many and varied interests that make the fields of Sound Art and Music such intriguing ones. It is increasingly difficult, and perhaps even of questionable value, to differentiate between these two subject areas. Many Sound Artists celebrate their origins in Fine Art practices and assert their right to work with sound as a material without the weight of music history bearing down on them. On the other hand, composers have demonstrated beyond any doubt that they know how to choose, organise and transform sound as material for their works. That such knowledge can be applied to sounds that are not traditionally associated with music speaks volumes to the scope and breadth of the fields under discussion. The truth is, of course, that Sound Art and Music have much in common. They encompass sound forms stemming from artistic practices to new ways of thinking about the qualitative nature of sound within musical objects and contexts, developing extended modes of devising compositions and showcasing experimental approaches to performance.

The contributors to this volume are composers, performers, artists and writers who have, through differing means, become especially intrigued by particular aspects of our engagement with the sonic, or as John Cage has put, the ‘activity’ of sound itself. The chapters have their origins in the Music and Sonic Art Conferences held in 2014 and 2015 at the Institut für Musikinformatik und Musikwissenschaft in Karlsruhe, Germany. Each of the twelve chapters reflect the broad range of approaches adopted by practitioners and researchers. Indeed, it is a recurring theme of this book that theory and practice (like Sound Art and Music) are frequently indistinguishable. The authors therefore consider the body, as a transitional, multisensory space (Lamounier), explored through the analysis of interactivity and gesture, embodiment and auto-choreography in relation to the solo instrument (Ho). The voices of objects (Hochherz), through practices and codes of behaviour in sound receiving spaces, leads to the musical instrument as a tool for thinking (Schmidt), collapsing the distinctions between theory and practice, and investigating the unique qualities of digital musical instruments and new timbres achieved. Collaboration is seen as a means of moving away from and questioning established compositional principles. What may be gained by such an approach (Williams), is then highlighted in the role of prior research within a live, site-specific performance model (Spinks). In terms of means and methods, (Stanovic) questions the validity of compositional rhetoric within acousmatic music. When considering the constitution of the sounds themselves, however, Warde investigates the field of spectromorphology, devised by Denis Smalley, to reveal new ways of listening, detecting and dissecting sounds. Referencing the phenomenon of ASMR, or the audio tactile, Spencer reflects on materialities, agencies and ‘intra-action’, (as opposed to inter-action) whilst Sergeant, influenced by Barad, opens up possibilities of the non-passive object in relation to the instrument. The very spaces of performance itself is investigated by Rodrigues in keyboard recitals and through the sounds of Western-art jazz piano (Benetti).

Taken as a whole, the authors address the many ways in which composed or devised Sound Art and Music can be experienced: from concept, to the form taken, the means of conveyance and, ultimately, to its affect and significance. Far from offering any kind of finite statement on these practices, this book offers a timely snapshot of the bewildering and diverse fields that constitute Sound Art and Music, demonstrating the seemingly infinite ways in which they are pursued by practitioners and theorists alike.

Item Type: Book
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
Item ID: 31155
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Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2020 10:33
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2021 11:11

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