“A sound has no legs to stand on” – John Cage
Can a sound be art? Not just a sound pre-engineered to be heard in this way (although those too), but something spontaneous – like the deep rumbling of a power station that you pass on your morning commute or the sound your computer makes when it encounters an error? Or when you have two different radio stations playing over each other at the same time, or the sleep-talk you babble in slumber?
The concept of ‘sound art’ is not new, but today the form is undergoing rapid transformation, driven by technology, art-as-democracy and our changing urban and rural spaces.
Alex Baker, Wind Powered Record Player, Image courtesy of the artist and GV Art gallery London
In a group exhibition featuring more than 30 sound artists which opened at GV Art Gallery in London yesterday, concepts of what constitutes music, sound, art and noise will be brought together in a fusion of sound, art and science
The term sound art is thought to trace back to William Hellermann’s Sound Art Foundation, founded in 1982 in New York, but the discipline can also be seen in the music of people like John Cage, and arguably could be traced back to the very beginnings of sound.
Yann Novak, Scalar Field (999, 930, 999), Image courtesy of the artist and GV Art gallery
NOISE and Whispers, which hosts artists including Alex Baker, Bill Nelson, Blanca Regina and Clay Gold, includes a dizzying variety of sound art, including:
The academic explorations of Josh Horsley’s “Day born”, a notated score that discusses the multiplicity of sound-plus-music as we experience it through time and space
Disinformation's “National Grid”, a sub-bass installation sourced from the ambient VLF field radiated by electricity pylons and mains circuits, highlights sounds that surrounds us
Janek Schaefer’s "That was the year that was...", which overlays number 1s from a single year played all at the same time, forcing us to listen in a new way
To think that a sound could be art might be strange, because sounds can be so fleeting. They are not things you can grab hold of. And when a sound has gone? All you have is a memory.
NOISE and Whispers opens today at GV Art Gallery, 49 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, London W1U 6LY and runs until 14 December. It’s free.