From the construction of Greek amphitheatres, perfectly constructed so that every member of the audience can hear a single, centrally placed speaker to Gothic cathedrals with whispering galleries, where a scant muttering reappears hundreds of feet away; sound has been a vital part of architecture and construction and plays a large part in the design of any fabricated space.
Concurrently, in the gallery, the sonic elements of visual art cannot be taken lightly or seen as extraneous, and work within the genre of sound art has created some of the most immersive and effective installations anyone can experience.
Sound is an elemental and mythical communication of emotion, feeling, intent or concept and can be experienced by anyone, no matter their academic or cultural background.
The genre of sound art is a complex and often contradictory one, with many different avenues of exploration. Sound artists can work with found sound, i.e. recordings taken from everyday life, or create their own compositions (be they vocal, classical or heavily synthesised) but in essence, sound art creates a direct line to the gallery visitor, linking the artist and the individual through the most basic, fundamental sonic connection.
Refraction (the bending of sound waves), reflection (the rebounding of sound waves off a surface), resonance (sound waves reinforcing themselves as a result of frequency or spatial dimensions and property) and sympathetic vibration (when a bell is struck, another identical one across the room begins vibrating) are all sonic elements which illustrate the possibilities within the genre for architectural complexities and puzzles which the artists can pose for the visitor: encouraging them to react to the concept of sound in and of itself.
Look out for my next blog where I will consider the ways in which sound inspires and affects the artworks which will be shown at FACT as part of Winter Sparks, the new exhibition which opens on the evening of 13 December and features a one-off sound performance from artist Edwin van der Heide.
Installation for 300 speakers, pianola and vacuum cleaner, John Wynne: http://www.sensitivebrigade.com/wynne.htm
Commission for The Curve at The Barbican, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot:http://www.paulacoopergallery.com/artists/CBM
A World Beyond the Loudspeaker and Extended Atmosphères, Edwin Van Der Heide: http://www.evdh.net/
Forty Part Motet, Janet Cardiff: http://www.cardiffmiller.com/
Sound Barrier (2006), Maria Urstad: http://www.maia.no/
Sonicity, Stanza: http://www.stanza.co.uk/sonicity/