What is sound art?

When you enter a gallery or museum you are not just having a visual experience…

There are paintings and sculptures that draw your attention to sound…

Films with soundtracks…

Kinetic sculptures from which sound emanates as they whirr and move…

But there are also installations that actively use sound as a material…

Rebecca Horn, ‘Concert for Anarchy’ 1990
Rebecca Horn
Concert for Anarchy 1990
Tate
© DACS, 2017
Jorge Macchi, ‘Incidental Music’ 1997
Jorge Macchi
Incidental Music 1997
Tate
© Jorge Macchi

Visual art is able to create, recreate and evoke a scene or feeling. But most of us do not experience the world in a purely visual way. We are constantly experiencing sound. Even something that is though to be silent isn’t.

The next time you are somewhere very quiet listen to all the little noises: A clock ticking, traffic in the distance, the whirring of your computer, your own breathing.

Sound is constant and everywhere.

As technology has advanced it has meant that artists have been able to utilise recording equipment and audio devices in order to explore sound as an art work.

Our Sonic Trails are pieces of sound art, they let you listen to recordings and compositions created by artists. Some allow you to experience somewhere entirely different to your surroundings, like the clicks and songs of whales and other under water animals while you’re walking through the Turbine Hall. Some allow you to imagine the process that went into making a sculpture and some uncover the hidden sounds at Tate Modern which can normally only be heard at night.

Some questions to think about next time you are listening…

Is it high?

Is it low?

Is it in the middle?

Is it soft?

Is it loud?

Are there two?

Are there more than two?

Is it a piano?

Why isn’t it?

Was it an aeroplane?

Is it a noise?

Is it music?

Is it softer than before?

Is it supersonic?

When will it stop?

What’s coming?

Is it time?

Is it very short?

Very long?

Just medium?

John Cage – Composition as Process,