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Spatiality of Sound

Spatiality of Sound

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Published by: Selma Ipsilon on Dec 29, 2011
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Bojana Piškur Spatiality of Sound In December 2005, the Moderna galerija (Museum of Modern Art) organized a series of sound

events (performances, exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and lectures) under the title Oscillations – 30 Days of Sound, most of which took place at its Mala galerija site.1 Among other things, we wanted to show that interdisciplinary work and crossing between different fields of artistic creativity do not belong exclusively to the art of the past decade but that, indeed, artists have been creating so-called sound spaces for a very long time. What does this actually mean in practice? Niklas Luhmann said that all systems, including the art system, are autonomous, which means that as soon as the system acknowledges a given activity as art it, it then becomes part of that system. To put it another way, the boundaries of the art system remain intact; if something enters it, that something becomes part of the system and is no longer an element in the environment. By this reasoning, sound event that takes place in a gallery setting becomes, a priori, an art event. But other interpretations are also possible; we were interested especially in ones related to the concept of openness (for example, the open work). Openness does not mean that the structure is insufficiently defined by external boundaries, but that openness is one of its essential principles. Thus, although a certain armor remains (such armor, of course, can also develop in relation to the art system, for example, to production, representation, distribution), it is very supple; primarily, we are talking about the coexistence of different conditions. The advantage is that it becomes possible to include any activity while changing the elements that form the content. In this way, we avoid any final demarcation of boundaries.2 In this context, perhaps the idea behind Oscillations was best illustrated by Brandon Labelle, when he writes: “Built into this idea is a move toward stepping outside the framework of Music – as practice, as history, as culture – as a way to create situations for this framework to be rethought or performed, as a kind of ‘location’ itself.”3


Mala galerija is located on Slovenska cesta, separate from Moderna galerija’s main building. Oscillations took place there from 15 December 2005 to 15 January 2006. 2 Vinko Globokar, Vdih-izdih (Ljubljana: Slovenska matica, 1987), 72. 3 Brandon Labelle, Social Music (Los Angeles: Errant Bodies Press, 2002), 3.

5 live music and tapes. ne jezi se [Man. 6 From the instructions Elementi zvočnega dogodka in osnovne zvočne akcije [Elements of a Sound Event and Basic Sound Actions]. smells. Allan Kaprow organized Eighteen Happenings in Six Parts. the organization of the material on the basis of 4 In 1959. In the fall of 1975. Don’t Get Angry] (based on the board game Človek. attempts to cross the boundaries between artistic forms and merge art with life began in the 1960s.In Slovenia. So. Don’t Get Angry]). movement. the following decades were very productive ones for audio experimentation. as well as in combinations of sound and image (experimental films. Dušan Rogelj. for example. . Slobodan Valentinčič. then. The emphasis was on mutual combinations and methods of producing various instrumental and vocal chiming sounds. the group OM Productions (Bor Turel. and so on. simultaneous composition. the experimental group Nomenklatura was founded. They explored intermedial space and the relationships between word.6 and Spati v Barvi [To Sleep in Color] (at the Mala Drama Theater in Ljubljana). since the music poured onto the street and into everyday life. The group’s most well known projects were the happenings Zvok. OM realized a series of programs under the title World Sound. This was a spatio-temporal sequence of sounds. and others) was founded as part of the work being done at Radio Študent.” 5 Such as. In December 1973. we hear Nez’s remarks about eternal circlings and crossings (Sava – life – cosmos). as it explored the audio potential of the radiophonic medium: the conception of the radio program as a musical composition. at the start of his recording of the sound of the Sava River (David Nez. SAETA). In this way. the simultaneous multiplication of audio elements. the group was trying to demythologize the sacred concert space and replace it with various kinds of sound environments. Novak. The fundamental principle was. ne jezi se [Sound. In general. and physical movement with performance instructions: for example. lights should be turned on and off at certain intervals and at various speeds. work by the dancer Jasna Knez (Nomenklatura. or listeners. Such instructions were given to both performers and “viewers. and public participation. which today is considered to be the first “happening” in America. which included performing sound (live and in theatrical situations) and demonstrating its functions in relation to spoken word and movement. slide projections). which were realized through a kind of group play. but also in the creation of entirely new instruments. and image. sound. 1970). and opened up several stillunknown territories of sound organization. not only in the use of various sound sources. images. at the instigation of Bor Turel and Boris A. The audio works of the OHO group also followed this principle. for instance. Sava. unusual audio links. the participation of the public.4 Milenko Matanovič said that art must be brought into life if life is to be full. sound and movement (expressive dance).

Next came a musical work. as part of the cycle Sound of the Planet. narrowing and broadening of the perceptive focus of the listener-viewer. electro-acoustic media). concrete. Gasparič. instrumental). or “radio-specific art. According to the published program. set design). Today. and pictorial directions for improvisation. difference in the levels of interaction of sound and image. merely static from a medium-wave transmitter. repetitive music for one or more instruments. Perovšek. B.m. A. Sedem skozi solsticij [Seven through the Solstice]9 (at Moderna galerija. there was a screening of the film Multiplay Film – Radiomusic. the multimedia project Seven through the Solstice (with slides by Niko Lehrman. Slobodan Valentinčič (experimental film). Boštjan Perovšek (accordion. or rather. its core participants have been the flautist Aleš Gasparič. reduction and multiplication.. the sound project Noise. and at 8:30 p. including Alain Lithaud and Vinko Globokar. which was performed on Radio Študent as part of Oscillations. This was the first known case of a program broadcasting. 13 This group is still active.e. Lithaud).8 Thus. verbal. followed by a demonstration of the principles behind the sound creation Posenzibilnosti [Postsensibilities]. an hour of silence.aleatory principles (i. He created the sound event Raj je padel na zemljo [Paradise Fell to Earth] at the Moderna galerija. indeed. French radio stations were also the birthplace of musique concrète. clarinet. Radio Študent played an important role in the development and spread of concepts of audio experimentation and research. music for audiotape generally (electronic. a system of prioritized instrumental actions. film by Slobodan Valentinčič). and recorded electro-acoustic materials – or more precisely. Turel. The group’s musical focus combined free improvisation. of minimalist music. the group SAETA is made up of Bašin. Lado Jakša. 11 This comes from a history of the groups SAETA and OM Productions. . which it described as “investigations into the dramaturgy of the audio and visual process of happening. who also works independently. Koordinacije [Coordinations]. Ljubljana. for example.”11 The project sought to explore the total multiplication and parallelism of different media. the station broadcast A Direct Transmission from the Rinka Waterfall. etc.13 and the following year it took up residence at the Bežigrad Gallery in Ljubljana. OM Productions made a number of multimedia projects. the work of Luc Ferrari. “Radio art” (Barbara Schroeder). Bor Turel12 and Miloš Bašin founded the group SAETA in 1977. He creates music based on sounds from the natural environment. In addition to Turel and Bašin. for example. NOM-OM. urban environments. An example is his project Pokisls. the transcription of which gives graphic. with Bor Turel as an occasional member. in collaboration with the group SAETA10). the affinities and heterogeneity of the concepts of image and sound. along with the aesthetic and educational aspects of this music. elements of experimental music. 9 Seven through the Solstice was performed on 19 June 1981 at the Moderna galerija. and sound (e-)interpretations of texts. with taped electro-acoustic music (B. the music of concrete sounds (live 7 8 From a conversation with Bor Turel and Slobodan Valentinčič. Miha Vipotnik (video). Many other artists have also worked with the group. as program content. 12 Bor Turel is the most prominent Slovene composer of electro-acoustic and experimental music.” has a long tradition.. dated 22 November 1979. and Niko Lehrman (slides. which also includes studio research. Perovšek. for instance. 10 One of the key participants in the group is Boštjan Perovšek. electronic music (recorded live). the evening began at 5 p. music based on so-called open forms. chance). consider.. in its regular program on 30 January 1978. and Jože Slak.7 At the time.m. at 6 p.m.

ŠKUC Forum (the ŠKUC Gallery. too. different ways to produce sound. recorded sounds. a group play develops in which each player is at once both performer and composer. In this way. Berlinski zid [Berlin Wall]. music from the sounds of audio environments. . to mention the places where “alternative culture” could be found: Disko FV. were all part of this scene. An example is his work Laboratorium15 – an open series of works intended to be played. Another person who was exploring new models of free improvisation. and used sounds made by water drops falling on different surfaces. they created specific sound spaces. into which concrete sounds. nos. and new methods for playing instruments was Vinko Globokar. they exposed this ideology as totalitarian. the group Laibach put its stamp on experimental sound art. such as meters-tall springs and the sound of water from an aquarium pump amplified in resonance pans. a water tank was added with holes from which a very thin stream of water flowed down a cord.16 In the 1980s. and didactic illustrations. This event at the Moderna galerija was cancelled due to illness. voice. it was different. the water would collect and then drip onto variously placed resonators. It is important. which was strung around the space so that at points where there were knots or where the ends of other cords were tied. or speech might also enter. By the end of the seventies. On this basis. and so on. Its skeleton was a construction made out of water collectors and little pipes (drippers. In 2004. There were also experiments with different sound sources.or taped). 16 Dušan Pirih Hup presents a short history of the project in the journal Likovne besede. and 14 15 From a history of the groups SAETA and OM Productions. shower heads. they began with the definition of music as an organization of sounds. Every time the Hidrogizma was erected. A presentation of this work can resemble a guided tour of a laboratory. later. the Hidrogizma was in operation. with a surreptitious gesture. 138– 142. one that includes showing how the music itself is born. the Upper Šiška Youth Center. Meje kontrole [Borders of Control]. in which it is possible to combine all the different components. concepts. Electric Fish. etc. a collective composition thus emerges that is the music of the relationships between sounds and people.. speech sounds. music collages of known and unknown sound sources. video production).14 They started from the principle that they needed to introduce the listener to a different way of organizing the structure of sounds – or rather. the Hidrogizma was included in the exhibition 7 Sins at the Moderna galerija. dated 22 November 1979. 17 Such groups as Borghesia. This was also the decade when Slovenia’s alternative culture scene took shape. Ljubljana. 63–64 (2003). this was both a musical instrument and a sculpture. everything depended on where it was installed. and organ pipes).17 “Laibach usurped the role of – radical – ideology.

“Sodobna umetnost. . A typical feature of such projects is that we cannot know in advance what their outcome will be. created noise-making machines he called intonarumori. and record player stood on pedestals in front of a wall triptych. 21 The art of noise had been researched long before by Luigi Russolo. identitete. Its essence lay in the actual listening or perceiving of the sound material (the 18 Taras Kermauner.”18 The group also managed to avoid the usual ways of defining art disciplines and were themselves a kind of social/comprehensive artwork. With the project Oscillations. which they performed 23 April 1983 at the Zagreb Biennial of New Music. 2003). which meant that the artwork was no longer necessarily an object with “special formal characteristics.21 or rather its sociological dimensions. 2005). and mechanical sounds. “the repression of industrial ritual is transformed into a compositional dictate and the politicization of sound can become absolute sonicity. their identity as art remains in question. or had emerged within the context of a different connection and understanding of what art actually is (and for whom it is intended). today’s artists deal with electronic. we tried to create spaces of sound at the Mala galerija. who in 1913 wrote a manifesto on the subject and. with the human voice. eds. “X + (-) 11 = ?: Premišljevanje ob mlajši slovenski poeziji. mreže: Slovenska umetnost 1995–2005 (Ljubljana: Moderna galerija. as Igor Zabel observed. thus. “contemporary”) practices had been around for decades. and the sounds issuing from all four created a cacophony of minimalist and repetitive patterns.e. with ambient sound.. a process that began in the late 1980s. Do roba in naprej: Slovenska umetnost 1975–1985 (Ljubljana: Moderna galerija.”20 Although similar (i.. 20 Igor Zabel. Laibach took as their starting point their historic concert performances (based on the aesthetics and philosophy of industrial culture). 109. given all the assumptions just listed. for their experimental forms and concepts transcend the boundaries of what we understand as sound art. among other things. megaphone. the notion of “contemporary art” gradually developed.their own deliberate adoption of unfreedom as freedom. a tape recorder. In this way. then. Jacques Attali offered a theoretical view on the topic in his work Noise (1977). digital. eds. and open up into various kinds of social space.”19 In the design of this installation. Teritoriji.. various signals and industrial noise. Jože Barši’s project was based on research into noise. when.” in Igor Španjol and Igor Zabel. At the Mala galerija. they had not been contextualized within the dominant art discourse. Thus. 6. as well as crossing into other fields of creativity. or had not required any institution for their existence. 19 From the wall text in the Mala galerija exhibition. A noticeable shift in our understanding of the aural came about through the involvement of new media and the ever-greater integration of sound-based works in contemporary art practices.” in Igor Španjol and Igor Zabel. especially the groundbreaking concert The Instrumentality of the State Machine. radio.

generative musical and visual 3-D procedures. 26 Brane Zorman founded the punk group O! KULT in the 1980s. he used prepared musical elements. which operated as part of Radio Študent from 1996 to 2000. linked the sound of the machine and its algorithm to the relationship we all have with it.25 later. series of modulations. We can understand the project in the broader context of Jacques Attali. selecting sampled sounds and so creating an aural composition.sound of sirens). and Chiron Morpheus. material. ambient electronic sound research combined with video recordings on two television screens. and often also the material realms). In other words. wherever noise penetrates. Oscilacije: 30 dni zvoka. beginning with so-called experimental music. 2005). At the Mala galerija. ed. and was a pioneer in the Slovene techno scene. social and psychological ones).23 Has not contemporary electronic sound. and visual installations (very often interactive) in which technology played a central role. In his project. of the Ministry of Experimentation. new forms of social organization can emerge. research. a search for demonstrative or even political meaning. which at the same time is an open creation in the public domain. made it possible for us to listen again? In the gallery. aural. Its aim was to explore such things as new media for transmitting sound. social emancipation – in the political economy of sound. and production in the field of new media” – in 1986. sound events on the Internet.24 as part of his research into micro-social algorithms. his Prezvokovanja [Sonomancy] was presented as an aural composition of statements and voices. along with Marko Košnik. Borut Savski. then. a series of questions. Luka Prinčič22 asked to what extent is composition present as the final stage in the cycle of new noiz – static noise as subversion. For this process of live composition. as such. unsevered from its contexts. but only in the system in which it appears. programmer. . The basis of the performance by Brane Zorman26 was a spatial sonic manipulation of material using various techniques and working with sound in real time. and synthesized 22 Luka Prinčič is a DJ. and “copyleft” writer. he explores open programming tools. The temporary sound systems are. and open performative practices. he put together a system of different linked computers. 32. already defetishized the character of music and. which communicated with each other at random. 23 From the catalogue. Bojana Piškur (Ljubljana: Moderna galerija. Marko Košnik started experimenting with the medium as such within the context of the Egon March Institute. Luka Frelih. rather. in which the internal relationships in these psychosocial systems appeared partly visible. 25 Košnik founded this institute – “a creative entity for the theory. who wrote that sound does not in itself exist as such. 24 Borut Savski is one of the founders. At the Mala galerija he performed his Surround Concert for 6 Channels and 2 TV Eyes. presenting occasional live events. etc. he broadened such events into spatial. This was not merely about the deconstruction of existing systems (most often. the aural. Savski built a number of similar parallel constructs (in the textual. Mutation in the organization of noise helps one understand the nature of sound and technology and to predict the future development of society as a whole. In his project at the Mala galerija.

and vice versa. and composed. aural. …. programming. Relying on binaural neurotechnology. Sound was thus shaped by the body itself. as well as a principle of pure improvisation in relation to the situation emerging in the space. Primož Potočnik31 used sound signals to synchronize brain waves. audio interventions in the public space. The project BrainEcho was accessible on the Web. Vrhovec Sambolec’s works encompass multimedia audio-visual installations. which then made it possible to turn a sonic signal into a pictorial one. this was an open system reflected in the choice of various materials generated from past events. Within the context of Oscillations. Vrhovec Sambolec gave a talk29 in which he presented the presuppositions underpinning his research into the affinity between the physical proximity of human bodies in space and the concept of the proximity of sono-musical parameters. among which formal news and contemporary topics were expressed through visual. and improvised music. Tao G. 27 28 Multitask is Sašo Vrabič.voices and instruments. talks). Irena Tomažin is a dancer who has recently been focusing her attention on voice (for example. Miha Ciglar turned a mix board into an oscillator. rx:tx30 experimented with technological systems. electro-acoustic. Through the feedback effect. a moving image created a sound.” Tao G. 32 Foo Bar was organized by Dunja Kukovec. The body was employed as an instrument by Multitask27 (using his voice as an “analogical illusion of the digital”) and Irena Tomažin28 (in a vocal performance). Darij Kreuh created sonic abstractions out of the signals produced by body movement in the coordinates of the gallery space. the events were held in the lower-level rooms of the Moderna galerija. 31 Neuro-feedback is a technique you can use to exercise your brain so as to enhance your abilities. The duo son:DA employed sound as the material for a sonic sculpture projected onto the windows of the Mala galerija: using a simple interface. Foo Bar32 was a series of events that took place from 2003 to 2005 (live performances. and his body into a mix board. 29 The title of the talk was “Repicturing the Meaning of Mutual Distance in the Field of Audio Communication. and Web-based experiments. . 30 rx:tx is a division of the nonprofit organization Projekt Atol. And finally. which is then used to create a feedback loop. the performance Kaprica [Caprice]). using an audio and visual archive to create new sonic syntheses and showing participants how radio signals or various electromagnetic waves can be transformed into sonic and performative experience. Brain activity gives off an EEG pattern.

Sound is a constituent part of human life. When a situation is repeated. Such a project might run day and night. This is now a social event. Or perhaps we should instead devise sound spaces of unlimited duration? In this way. Individuum – collectivum II. . on the active users and creators of these things. are actively involved. naturally depends. above all. it loses immediacy and becomes merely a comment on itself. 1979– (Ljubljana: Zveza kulturnih organizacij Slovenije. 1995).33 33 This is a partial paraphrase from Vinko Globokar. what sort of technologies. at the time. 23c. one that is difficult to define because it might not even be there. It is always present. And a sound that has once been heard is not the same as a sound heard a second time. on the level of the idea. and the participants would never all be present at the same time – but this means that those who are absent would be just as responsible for the event as those who. not even one’s own name. we would rid ourselves completely of delimiting concepts. Murray Schafer has said that sound can never be repeated in the same way. and the whole hierarchy of ownership. and tools will develop. and we enter and exit it freely. Responsibility thus becomes something shared.The sound spaces we created at the Mala galerija can never be repeated. becomes looser. means of communication. What path sound will take as it develops in the future.

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