Sound in Contemporary Art

Listen, Sound art is having a moment

Go to any cutting edge contemporary art fair, show, Biennale and you will find artists using sound as a medium, as well as the usual more familiar tools of visual artists.

Sound Art is  Art which uses sound both as its medium (what it is made out of) and as its subject (what it is about) -Tate art terms

Interested in discussing the role of Sound in IB Art? On January 21 the new page Sound in IB Art will be live.

Making Noise as an art form?

So where does sound art fit in, is it visual art, is it music, is it something else? Taking things out of context, therefor exploring new contexts? Looking at how objects affect each other, reconfiguring relationships? Maybe allowing for the discovery of accidental sounds rather than creating purposeful sound is what makes this art rather than music...open for discussion.

Contemporary Artists working with sound

If you would like to get to know some artists who use sound elements in their work try these two excellent resources

Soundings, at MOMA in 2013, presents 16 contemporary sound artists

12 artists using sound as part of their vocabulary in this article on artnet on Sound artists

Sound is materially invisible but very visceral and emotive. It can define a space at the same time as it triggers a memory -Susan Philipsz

A bit of background on Sound Art

"Sound art dates back to the early inventions of futurist Luigi Russolo who, between 1913 and 1930, built noise machines

that replicated the clatter of the industrial age and the boom of warfare. Dada and surrealist artists also experimented art that uses sound. Marcel Duchamp’s composition Erratum Musical featured three voices singing notes pulled from a hat, a seemingly arbitrary act that had an impact on the compositions of John Cage, who in 1952 composed 4’33’’ a musical score of four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. (Four minutes thirty three seconds is 273 seconds. The temperature minus 273 celsius is absolute zero).

By the 1950s and 1960s visual artists and composers like Bill Fontanawere using kinetic sculptures and electronic media, overlapping live and pre-recorded sound, in order to explore the space around them.

Since the introduction of digital technology sound art has undergone a radical transformation. Artists can now create visual images in response to sounds, allow the audience to control the art through pressure pads, sensors and voice activation, and in examples like Jem Finer’s Longplayer, extend a sound so that it resonates for a thousand years." ( Tate)

Viewer Participation

Some sound art works invite the audience to selectively participate by putting on headphones, or even, as in the case of the piece by Cevdek Erek on vimeo shown below, to make the sound yourself.

Cevdet Erek invites viewers to recreate the sound of the ocean by rubbing their hands on a piece of carpet.

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Comments 3

Martin Cullen 12 January 2018 - 22:11

And yet our students can't submit sound can they?

Heather McReynolds 13 January 2018 - 18:26

Hi Martin, you are correct, examiners are instructed not to listen to sound. I am publishing a new site page on the topic of sound specifically in IB ART -the oage will be live on January 21 so be sure to check back in and join the conversation!

phil Gunderson 17 January 2018 - 10:22

Hi Heather I have a student who has made a sound track and a film. The sound track is pretty important to the film, which is part of an installation.... can you advise how this will be assessed?


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