Avant-Garde  •  Sound Art

Sound Sculpture

Sound sculpture music is exactly that: the music of a sculpture producing sound. Although the expression is used at times to refer to the act of sculpting raw sound through electroacoustical processes (as in musique concrète), here "sound sculpture" designates music obtained by playing a resonating physical structure. Sound sculptors usually come from two different backgrounds: sculptors and visual artists interested in the sonic proprieties of wood, metal, air, etc., and composers looking for different sound palettes. The existence of sound sculpture goes back to the early ages of civilization, one of the first examples being aeolian harps, such as the aeolian organ of the Guadalcanal, a seaside construction of bamboo with slits cut in for the wind to play. Some sculptures are devised to be "played" by its environment (air, water, earth vibrations, etc.) -- additionally, their sound can be treated electronically, as with Mnortham's aeolian constructions or [The User]'s 2000-2001 Silophone project. Other sculptures are meant to be played by a musician by bowing, plucking or striking parts of its structure. These are similar to home-built instruments, although they are usually conceived following a more visual than practical point of view. Sculptors in this field include Chas Smith, Tom Nunn, Peter Warren, and Paul Panhuysen. Finally, some sculptures are self-playing automatons (Dan Senn, Maxime Rioux, Frank Pahl). Most of the music originating from sound sculptures also fall into the categories sound art and/or conceptual art.