Sound art is a challenge to define. Unlike watercolour, pastels, and pottery, it is hard to envision. Unlike a genre of writing, it is hard to find a point of reference in which to explain the craft.
I am a notorious fan of words, I often coin myself a “wordsmith”; however it is difficult to find the words most suitable for sound art—perhaps that is one of the core reasons I am drawn to it.
To me, sound art is the exploration of the interpretation of sound. Sound can be visually discovered, felt, and certainly heard. Sound art employs many “unconventional” instruments and often a manipulation of the everyday sounds. Sound art truly opens our senses to broaden our awareness, and definition, of music.
“’Sound art’ is a term for a diverse set of art practices which utilize sound and listening as the subject matter and material… It is hard to define the borders of what is and isn’t sound art. There are two reasons for this: because of the variety of the forms it can take, and because of the fact that sound art exists somewhere between music and the visual arts, predominantly outside of both, but with some overlap over porous borders.”
My friends affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) dubbed me the “music snob” at parties. I never attended a high school party without a mixed CD ready to pop in when the attendees’ senses start to waiver. I take great pleasure in crafting mixed CD’s for every occasion (birthdays, going-away parties, etc.) My hunger to find the less-listened notes (and share it with others) drove me to the ever-changing pocket of sound art. While I still enjoy the challenge of making a personalized mixed tape, CD, and playlist, I find myself deeper into discovering sound.
Although the term ‘sound art’ is currently picking up steam, it has been practiced for ages. Wolf Vostell (born: 1932) was a pioneer of blurring artistic mediums and among the first to embark in Fluxus. Fluxus is a key term for sound art, as the Fluxus Movement is one that focuses on the creation process of art and urges one to not focus on the end result.
Aside from Wolf Vostell, other notable sound artists are: Yoko Ono, Charlemagne Palestine, Miranda July, Keiji Haino, Bruce Nauman, and Moondog. I urge you to do a quick read/listen in order to get an idea of how vast this craft is.
Apologies for this post reading like a history lesson. I find it important to first get a sense of what sound art is (to the best of this post’s ability) before diving into the sound art scene (yes, Winnipeg is on the map), festivals, reviews, etc.
When asked what I like, where I am going, and what I volunteer for, I often am met with a blank stare and a “what does that mean?” I hope that I have clarified and enticed you to read on about what I have bestowed as an unmuted breed.