Sound art

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sound art (also audio art or, borrowed from English, sound art ) describes the intermedia art forms in which sounds merge with other arts and media to form a work of art . Due to the different interplay of sound, space, time, movement and form , sound art can be assigned to artistic works such as sound sculptures , sound installations , music performances and media art works with radio plays , features , video or computer networks .

While the German term sound is generally associated with the result of musical composition (see sound composition ), the English term sound also includes (everyday) noise, which has a special meaning in sound art. (Everyday) noises are used there just as frequently as instrumentally generated sounds or tones.

Origin of sound art

The material-related separation of art forms according to space and time, formulated by Lessing in the 18th century, was questioned by musicians and artists alike and led to the so-called musicalization of the arts. In the 19th century , the symphony served as a model for all types of art because of its immaterial form. Due to the direct relationship between harmonies and numerical proportions, music was given universal and transferable compositional laws. The structure formation of music carried over to the visual arts in the form of abstract painting . The Russian constructivist Wassily Kandinsky depicted Beethoven's 5th symphony in lines and dots. The usually static and visual visual arts are supplemented by a temporal and sometimes dynamic component through the use of sounds. Conversely, spatial and visual aspects were taken up in the music, which were based on ideas of a multi-sensory art, such as those pursued by Richard Wagner .

As early as 1907 Ferruccio Busoni had published his draft of a new aesthetics of the art of sound with considerations on new tone scales, sixth tone systems and first notions of the possibilities of electrically generated sounds. The futuristic painter Luigi Russolo published the manifesto L'arte dei rumori (The Art of Noise) in 1913 , in which he dealt with the noise of machines and motors in big cities. For him, sounds were not only used to compose music, but also as an independent material and means of expression in order to make the technologicalization of the world tangible. He also developed various instruments for generating sounds, the intonarumori (sound generator), as a combination of different boxes with horns that contained specially treated membranes to generate different noises. As early as 1916 in the New York Morning Telegraph, Edgar Varèse called for the emancipation of sound not to be understood as a degradation of music, but as a longing to “expand our musical alphabet”. The noise emancipated itself and became an equal compositional material alongside the sound, the tone and the silence.

At the same time, the Dadaists had a lasting influence on music and the later development of sound art. The Dadaism , which was regarded as anti-art, rejected the conventional mold-based ideas of art and was based on the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Different artistic media were experimented with regardless of their genre and in direct connection with everyday life. In addition to improvisation, chance played a major role for most artists, such as in the composition Erratum Musical by Marcel Duchamp .

In 1948, Pierre Schaeffer , co-founder of Musique concrète , coined the term “sound object”. He used this to name (everyday) noises from the French radio archives, which he collected, edited and recomposed in sound collages, regardless of their source of origin . In addition to the separation of the sound from its cause through recording and transmission technology, Schaeffer showed that sound, originally only subject to time, also has static and material-specific properties such as density, depth or length and can be manipulated in a similar way to other materials.

The possibilities of audio technology changed the handling of sounds and led to the fact that the interpreter could be replaced by transmission or playback technology. These developments influenced contemporary music from 1960 onwards. In particular, the ideas of the American composer John Cage , who integrated chance, silence and noise into his compositions, provided essential foundations for the development of sound art. Representatives of minimal music such as La Monte Young with his concept of the Dream House also shaped the newly emerging art genre, which established itself between the common art and music terms.

Forms of sound art

Sound art is recognized as an independent art form within the visual arts. In order to give the liberation of sound and the emancipation of noise their true meaning, one must follow the thesis of Jacques Attali that “the world is understood not by reading but by hearing”, as he describes it in his essay Bruits , a political economy of Music that represents 1977.

Sound sculptures

As the intersection of two terms, one of which comes from acoustics and the other from the visual, the term sound sculpture is not always used in the same sense. It is ambiguous, especially where “sound artists” like Bill Fontana and Michael Brewster have used the term sound sculpture to transfer the visual arts to sound and vice versa. Primarily, however, the term sound sculpture refers to artistically produced objects of different sizes, the function of which is that they can be exhibited and viewed as visual works of art as well as that they can be made to sound like musical instruments or, on mechanical or electrical / set in motion electronically, making tones or noises audible. In contrast to earlier experiments (e.g. the so-called Intonarumori by Luigi Russolo ), the term refers to works created after 1945 such as B. the Structures sonores by the brothers Bernard and François Baschet (Paris from 1952), the automated sound generator by Joe Jones (New York from 1963) intended for noise music, or the objects by the Greek Takis (Paris, which their inventor called Sculptures musicales ) 1965). Jean Tinguely , who created two reliefs méta-mécaniques sonores in 1955 and also showed interest in the acoustic events of his moving works in later works, distanced himself from appropriating his machines as musical instruments: “My devices don't make music”.

Since then, the range of possible sound generators has been expanded more and more through the inventiveness of musicians and visual artists who are keen to experiment. The Tapdancer , designed by Stephan von Huene in 1967, is a sound sculpture that resembles a jukebox, but generates sounds without external controls. The sculpture consists of two shortened legs that are moved by a pneumatic drive and the tips of the feet can be tapped. The noises come from wooden blocks inside the box. Von Huene used electroacoustic means in the development of the so-called totem tones (1969/70) and text tones (1982/83). The work of Martin Riches is comparable with this.

Around the same time, Hugh Seymour Davies began using contact microphones to turn found everyday objects into musical sound sources. In 1979 the sculptor Elmar Daucher discovered the musical inner workings of his stone sculptures with deep saw cuts as a by-product and developed a whole series of sound stones from them . Dauchers prototypes were further developed by Michael Scholl and Arthur Schneiter. The sound stones by Hannes Fessmann follow similar principles, but show a greater variety of handling and sounds. The archaic sound sculptures by Alois Lindner and Thomas Rother convey a fundamental musical experience. Ludwig Gris combined 300 small metal noise objects into a multi-colored sound “orchestra” in the Medusa sound stele (1984). In contrast, Thomas Vogel refined the unlimited possibilities of electronic sound generation in his interactive sound sculptures; He was particularly interested in the subject of feedback processes in the recipient's perception of the work of art. Even Stephan von Huene's sound sculptures deal with the perception of the recipient, in particular in terms of embodied perception as Embodiment .

The sound sculpture cannot be clearly distinguished from the sound installation, and in contrast to the sound installation, the sound sculpture is not necessarily directly related to the space. In his sound sculpture Music on a Long Thin Wire from 1977, Alvin Lucier uses the room as a resonance body. A wire stretched in space is excited uniformly electromagnetically, and the resulting variable vibrations are made audible via pickups at both ends of the wire. With the aim of setting entire rooms into atmospheric oscillation, Harry Bertoia developed the Sonambient , where the user finds a multitude of sounding objects that he can make sound manually. In keeping with the prevailing art aesthetics of the early 1970s, the art viewer becomes a co-designer. Edmund Kieselbach blew up the confines of the exhibition rooms with a sound street , where visitors to the open-air exhibition Szene-Rhein Ruhr 72 with the help of reworked cable drums became actors in the creation of variable sound collages. Michael Jüllich and Thomas Rother also pursued similar goals in Essen with a play and sound street . Mostly sound installations, with their experimental character they now also enrich the established festivals of new music, including the Donaueschinger Musiktage.

In 1987 the German section of the International Society for New Music made a start to the integration of such works of art into the canonized forms of performance of contemporary music , by presenting works by u. a. Rolf Julius , Hans Otte , Stephan von Huene and Bernhard Leitner presented. Since then, a number of institutes (including the ZKM Karlsruhe ) and universities (including the University of Music Mainz ) have opened up to research and testing of sound art in the broadest sense and a barely manageable abundance of artistic works has emerged, which always experience new and original sounds to let.

First impressions of the tonal variety were given in the initial phase by exhibitions such as B. the presentation of the Structures Sonores by the Baschet brothers at the Brussels World's Fair (1958) or Harry Partch's instruments at the San Francisco Art Museum (1966). In 1973 a large-scale presentation took place in the Art Gallery Vancouver BC under the title Sound Sculpture . a. David Jacobs got to hear and see wah-wah objects. For eyes and ears. From the music box to the acoustic environment. Objects - Installations - Performances was the title of a collective exhibition organized in 1980 by the Akademie der Künste Berlin . A traveling exhibition of sound sculptures '85 combined works by various artists, including a. Baschet, Daucher, Giers, von Huene, Kieselbach, Riches, Takis and Vogel. Many of the sound producers were made to sound improvisationally and compositionally in gallery concerts, with composers such as Anestis Logothetis , Klaus Ager , Hans-Karsten Raecke , Klaus Hinrich Stahmer and others. a. participated. The focus of the exhibition shown in Würzburg, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Bonn, Düren and Dornbirn was the Sound Road (1972–84) by Gerlinde Beck , which consists of several large-format hollow bodies made of steel . In 1987, Ars Electronica in Linz opened up the entire spectrum of new sound sources for the first time under the title Der Free Sound .

A combination of sound sculptures with conventional musical instruments proves to be unusual and sometimes difficult due to the difference in sound and tonality, but has also been implemented in a few compositional ways. Ulrich Gasser wrote a quote for soprano, organ and sound stone (1991). In Kristallgitter (1992), Klaus Hinrich Stahmer brought about the connection of a sound stone with a string quartet by means of electronic ring modulation. In 1999 he wrote to lose is to have for accordion and listening tubes by Edmund Kieselbach, where the artist has to control his sound sculpture according to the score. Gottfried Hellmundt wrote scores such as Aiguille du Midi for chamber ensemble and lithophone (2000) and Steine ​​Leben for soprano solo, violoncello, lithophone, sandpaper and field stones (2002). Lapides clamabunt is the name of a work by Hans Darmstadt for voice and sound stone (2001).

Under the title Resonance as Speculation , Deutschlandfunk turned its attention to sound sculptures on its platform Cologne Congress 2018 . Concrete objects from the class of Professor Anke Eckart ( Art Academy for Media Cologne ) were "activated by sound" and made to vibrate. In the aesthetic approach to this, parallels were shown “to social and technical aspects of radio. This can also be understood as a resonance body. "

Some artists speak of sound sculptures even though the works lack an object. Here the sound itself serves as a sculptural material or the installation is understood from an expanded concept of sculpture, e.g. B. in the work Random Access Lattice (2011) by Gerhard Eckel.

Sound installation

The sound installation is a site and situation specific work, in which the sound is the characteristic feature. This can be transmitted from data carriers, via radio or radio waves or generated on site. In contrast to the concert installation or instrumental music , the room itself is included in the work of art. Max Neuhaus describes the sound installation as an endless performance without a musical climax. With Drive-in Music he realized one of the first electro-acoustic installations in public space in 1967. He installed 20 radio wave transmitters in the trees on a 600-meter-long route in Buffalo , New York, with different sounds generated under environmental influences. The drivers received different sound developments over a certain frequency depending on the speed, direction of travel, time of day and weather conditions. In addition to the aspects of space and time, movement and visualization are conceptually included in the sound installation. The structuring of the sounds takes place less in time, but rather as material in a closed or open space. The sound generators can be placed as objects visible to the recipient or, in contrast to the sound sculpture, invisible. In many of her works, Christina Kubisch , for example, combines sound and light into audiovisual images in which the origin of the sounds remains hidden. Your approach of giving the recipient their own time is another typical feature of the sound installation. The recipient, who can move freely in the room and determine the length of his stay, becomes an interpreter himself.

Sound performance

Sound performance is one of the most diverse forms of sound art, as it can include almost all media and artistic forms of expression such as painting, film, video, photography, electronic media, language and text. At the same time, the sound performance shows similarities to the happening , environment or actions of the Fluxus artists and is considered the predecessor of the sound installation. Its characteristic in contrast to performance art is the use of music, the visualization of sounds or the use of musical compositional principles. The focus is on the performance and not, as in a concert, on the piece of music being created. Another aspect of the sound performance is the examination of one's own body and the identity of the performer. Electro Clips by Christian Möller and the dancer Stephen Galloway represents a performance and an installation at the same time. Light and sound are influenced by movements. The photo sensors that trigger sounds, distributed on the stage floor , enable the dancer to play the installation like a keyboard. Other sound performances experiment with the connection between technology and body. The Dutch performance artist Harry de Wit wore an overall made of rubber, prepared with contact microphones , in his sound performance Costume , which transmitted the sounds to loudspeakers in the performance room. These were arranged in the room in such a way that the recipient had the impression of being in de Wit's body.


In Germany there is the possibility of specializing in sound art as part of an art or music course. The following courses are currently available:

In Switzerland there are the following courses:

In the Netherlands there are the following courses:

See also


  • Akademie der Künste, Berlin (ed.): Sound art. Prestel, Munich, New York 1996, ISBN 3-7913-1699-0 (with CD).
  • Akademie der Künste, Berlin (ed.): For eyes and ears. From the music box to the acoustic environment. Objects, installations, performances at the Akademie der Künste January 20 to March 2, 1980, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-88331-914-7 .
  • Ulrich Eller , Christoph Metzger (Eds.): Vol. 03, Abstract Music. Sound Art, Media & Architecture . Kehrer, Heidelberg 2017, ISBN 978-3-86828-774-5 .
  • Ulrich Eller, Christoph Metzger (Ed.): The Statement! Sound installation. Perspectives and fields of activity of interventionist art between architecture, sound art and new acoustic art forms. With contributions by Jens Brand, Julia Gerlach, Dennis Graef, Anne Müller von der Haegen, Maija Julius, Johannes Meinhardt, Robin Minard, Franz Martin Olbrisch , Sebastian Pralle, Bärbel Schlüter, Ingo Schulz, Carsten Seiffarth, Antimo Sorgente, Carsten Stabenow, Frauke Stiller and Annette Tietenberg. Kehrer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-86828-641-0 .
  • Dan Lander, Micah Lexier: Sound by Artists. Art Metropole, Walter Phillips Gallery, Toronto 1990, ISBN 0-920956-23-8 .
  • Helga de la Motte-Haber (ed.): Sound art. Handbook of Music in the 20th Century, Vol. 12. Laaber, 1999, ISBN 978-3-89007-432-0 .
  • Helga de la Motte-Haber: Music and fine arts. From tone painting to sound sculpture. Laaber, 1990, ISBN 3-89007-196-1 .
  • Peter Kiefer (Ed.): Sound Spaces of Art. With contributions and a. by Barbara Barthelmes, Paul de Marinis, Stefan Fricke, Golo Föllmer, Wulf Herzogenrath , Peter Frank, Helga de la Motte-Haber, Volker Straebel. With video DVD. Kehrer, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-936636-80-2 .
  • Alexis Ruccius: Sound art as an embodiment. Frankfurt am Main 2019, ISBN 978-3-96505-000-6 .
  • Bernd Schulz (Ed.): Resonances. Aspects of sound art. Saarbrücken City Gallery. With CD. Saarl Foundation. Kulturbesitz, Saarbrücken 2003, ISBN 978-3-932183-30-0 .
  • Ulrich Tadday (Ed.): Sound Art. Music concepts special volume. edition text + kritik, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-88377-953-9 .

Web links

Commons : sound art  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Schulz: Introduction. In: Bernd Schulz (Ed.): Resonances. Aspects of sound art. Saarl Foundation. Kulturbesitz, Saarbrücken 2003, p. 3.
  2. Helga De La Motte-Haber: Sound art - a new genre. In: Akademie der Künste (ed.): Sound art. Prestel, Munich, New York 1996, pp. 12-17.
  3. Helga De La Motte-Haber: Sound art - a new genre. In: Akademie der Künste (ed.): Sound art. Prestel, Munich, New York 1996, pp. 14-15.
  4. Peter Weibel on Sound Art. Sound as a medium of art , ZKM website (accessed October 17, 2015)
  5. René Block: The sum of all sounds is gray. In: Akademie der Künste (Ed.): For eyes and ears. From the music box to the acoustic environment. Akademie der Künste, Berlin 1980, p. 131.
  6. ^ Robin Minard: Musique concrète and its importance for the visual arts. In: Bernd Schulz (Ed.): Resonances. Aspects of sound art. Saarl Foundation. Kulturbesitz, Saarbrücken 2003, pp. 38–43.
  7. ^ Sabine Sanio: Aesthetic experiences as a perception exercise. In: Ulrich Tadday (Ed.): Klangkunst. Music concepts special volume. edition text + kritik, Munich 2008, pp. 47–66.
  8. Peter Weibel: Sound Art. Sound as a medium of art.
  9. Quoted in Frank Gertich. Sound sculptures ; in: Helga De La Motte-Haber: Sound art - a new genre. In: Akademie der Künste (ed.): Sound art. Prestel, Munich, New York 1996, p. 146.
  10. René Block: The sum of all sounds is gray. In: Akademie der Künste (Ed.): For eyes and ears. From the music box to the acoustic environment. Academy of Arts, Berlin 1980.
  11. Alexis Ruccius: Sound Art as Embodiment. Primatverlag, Frankfurt am Main 2019, p. 300.
  12. Alexis Ruccius: Sound Art as Embodiment. Primatverlag, Frankfurt am Main 2019, pp. 301–306.
  13. IGNM - World Music Days '87. Program book self-published by the German section of the IGNM, pp. 266–87.
  14. ^ John Grayson: Sound sculpture: a collection of essays by artists surveying the techniques, applications, and future directions of sound sculpture. ARC Publications, Vancouver 1975, ISBN 0-88985-000-3 .
  15. Catalog Sound Sculptures '85. University of Music Würzburg, 72 pages (self-published).
  16. Documented on the double LP Sound Sculptures, WERGO SM 1049-50, 1985.
  17. Resonance as speculation , May 3, 2018. Cologne Congress 2018: Storytelling in the media. Deutschlandfunk , accessed on May 12, 2020.
  18. ^ Sabine Sanio: Aesthetic experiences as a perception exercise. In: Ulrich Tadday (Ed.): Klangkunst. Music concepts special volume. edition text + kritik, Munich 2008, pp. 47–66.
  19. ^ Sabine Sanio: Aesthetic experiences as a perception exercise. In: Ulrich Tadday (Ed.): Klangkunst. Music concepts special volume. edition text + kritik, Munich 2008.
  20. Volker Straebel: History and Typology of the Sound Installation. Sound art. In: Ulrich Tadday (Ed.): Klangkunst. Music concepts special volume. edition text + kritik, Munich 2008, pp. 24–46.
  21. ^ Barbara Barthelmes, Matthias Osterwold: Music Performance Art. In: Akademie der Künste (ed.): Sound art. Prestel, Munich, New York 1996.
  22. ^ Rolf Großmann: Media Sound Spaces. Media aesthetic settings of the sound installation. In: Peter Kiefer (Ed.): Sound Spaces of Art. Kehrer, Heidelberg 2010, pp. 291–304.
  23. ^ Barbara Barthelmes and Matthias Osterwold: Music Performance Art. In: Akademie der Künste (ed.): Sound art. Prestel, Munich, New York 1996, pp. 233-238.
  24. Klangkunst-Komposition (M.Mus.) On the website of the University of Mainz, accessed on June 17, 2011
  25. ^ Free art at the HBK Braunschweig, accessed on June 17, 2011
  26. Media Art / Media Design, MFA at the Bauhaus University, accessed on January 30, 2015
  27. ^ Sound Studies and Sonic Arts. Berlin University of the Arts, accessed on July 5, 2020
  28. ^ Department of MK-Sound at the HfG Karlsruhe, accessed on May 29, 2013
  29. Music and Media Art at Musik und Medienkunst Bern, accessed on August 19, 2011
  30. Contemporary Art Practice on the website of the Bern University of the Arts, accessed on August 19, 2011
  31. ^ Bachelor ArtScience. Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, accessed on January 20, 2019 (English, Dutch).