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Alan Licht’s “Sound Art”, Article Review Example

Pages: 2

Words: 609

Article Review

The questions over what makes sound art, and conversely if sound can be considered art have increasingly been addressed in modern art discourses. To deconstruct these various questions one cannot separate sound from music because doing so would result in a reductive understanding of the issues at hand by eschewing its cultural current and because sound is married to the art of music within the current social and cultural milieu. As a result, sound art can vary on an idiosyncratic basis based on what an individual calls it and where an artist comes from. This work investigates a vast array of possibilities of not only how people choose to perceive sound art but also the context in which sound is framed and presented. Upon hearing sound, individuals can ask themselves whether the sound they hear is art or if it is merely just sound. This process indeed is a circular one rather than a linear one with an endpoint, which is why an ongoing dialogue about sound art persists into the present day.

Indeed, “sound art” has frequently been used in modern art discourses, yet there is still no clear and definite definition of the term.  Like many other art movements, some of the primary practitioners of sound art, who claim to precede the moniker “sound art,” distrust the term itself. Licht examines various considerations of the terms in relation to three artists whose art can be characterized as sound art because sound represented the primary medium upon which their art was created. Max Neuhaus and Annea Lockwood represent one example of artists who eschewed inclusion in this group of artists. They explored sound as a natural component and a new platform for composition peripheral to the concert hall and instruments. They, like other so-called sound artists, ironically never endorsed the term, which reveals how modern artists who view sound as art steadfastly resist categorization, especially because of the confusion around what the phrase “sound art” actually adduced. The term “sound art” itself was coined during the 1980’s by a Canadian composer and so-called audio artist named Dan Lander, which carried the connotation of experimental music, or new age music. At the turn of the twenty-first century, a proliferation of high-profile exhibitions further complicated the ongoing dialogue about the term, which fomented further confusion regarding what the term actually referred to.

As such, identifying as a sound artist lends an individual or group of people with a degree of legitimacy that perceived experimental musician does not have access to. The very adjective experimental in the minds of most people connotes a psychological indication that the musician themselves is unaware that they are doing, and the listener often does not understand what is happening either. Nonetheless, there is a sense of semi-professionalism that accompanies these artists and their work. Ultimately, over the past century in the modern era, an art form has burgeoned that is inspired by the music world and visual arts. The roots of sound art can be pinpointed in the experimental art of art movements such as Dad, Italian futurism, and the Fluxus group in addition to the spearheading efforts of John Cage, an American artist and composer. Prior to the production of his work, the so-called sound art movement gained traction as a mature modern art movement. The possibilities of interactive mediums have developed art in various ways. This work details one narrative of sound art from the voice of one of its primary critics from a scholarly point of view. Licht traces the history of this novel art form and underscores how Indie world bands and the art world have converged through analysis of various artists associated therein.

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