Sound Art and Installations


Sound art is a blend of approaches to creativity known as disciplines. These disciplines can cover visual, acoustic and performance art forms. Sound art usually takes the form of an interdisciplinary approach as it can require knowledge of visual and sonic art, technology, and in the case of an acoustic ecologist’s compositional approach, activism and political awareness.

The form this can take is varied and vast, with some projects working in gallery spaces and some out in the environment which they work to raise an awareness of. Technology can often play a large role in gallery sound art associated with an ecological viewpoint, as much like electroacoustic or instrumental compositions, the sound source is dislocated and exists outside of the gallery space but is presented inside the gallery.

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Photo: Liminal. (2015). Organ of Corti, London. Retrieved from http://www.liminal.org.uk/uploads/images/Gallery/organ_of_corti/large/organ_of_corti_london_01.jpg


Pictured above is the Organ of Corti which is both a sculpture and a sound-producing object. This piece of sound art looks impressive, and invites inquisitive visitors onto a platform to wander between the four meter high forest of plastic tubing via a neat step. The Organ of Corti does not make any sound of its own but it can still be thought of as an instrument as it recycles the sounds of the environment in which it is located, and plays them back to draw our attention to them. This follows the spirit of acoustic ecology closely as it helps us to question whether we need more noise by giving listeners a chance to focus on the sounds of the local environment as they happen.

The video below shows Jem Finer’s Score for a Hole in the Ground which is a work based on water chimes, using underground holes which can be both natural or manmade such as mines. Inside one of these holes at a chosen site is a series of metal bowls of different sizes and tunings. Water is allowed to drip from the surface and onto these bowls via a grate on the surface which also has a large funnel sprouting through it, like a large flower or tree. The sounds of the water dripping onto these metal bowls is amplified through the funnel and projected for a listener, or player to hear.

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Sound art uses more than one type of artistic approach and often requires a great deal of knowledge beyond the artistic or musical abilities, such as technology and science.

A sound art project can often be a collaboration of people working together on a shared vision and research project.
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Photo: McGowan, A. (n.d). Score for a Hole in the Ground. Retrieved from http://rekkerd.org/score-for-a-hole-in-the-ground/

Video: The Tunnel Project. (2011). Jem Finer: Score for a Hole in the Ground. [YouTube]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/0HYmD5cOmgs


A more thorough explanation of Jem Finer’s work can be found on the website along with other works and insights.

The Organ of Corti and Score for a Hole in the Ground do make for a fine example of how interdisciplinary approaches and collaboration have joined to create fascinating and relevant pieces. There are many more pieces to be explored, some of which are more permanent, such as Panopticon.

Due to the nature of the interdisciplinary work and the amount of detailed knowledge and craftsmanship that is required to build these large works, financial help and funding is often sought out, as they can take a long time to research, design, and finally build.