It is tricky to pinpoint exactly when sound art emerged as an art movement and how artists began to explore sound as a new media. The start of sound art is not linked to any specific time or place, however most art historians agree that the manifesto "The Art of Noises" written by futurist Luigi Russolo in 1913 is a good starting point.
Russolo argues that we have grown accustomed to the diverse urban industrial soundscape and before the machines, our understanding of what constitutes "noise" was nonexistent. In his manifesto he writes: "Ancient life was all silence. In the 19th century, with the invention of the machine, noise was born. Today, noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibilities of men".
Sound Art uses sound as both the medium and the subject matter: it's art made of sound about sound. Many artists from the Dadaist and Surrealist movements experimented with sound as a way to explore space, memory and emotions. Garry Webb for example, built kinetic sculptures with pre-recorded sounds, building a nostalgic atmosphere surrounding each piece. Susan Philipsz creates sound sculptures using recordings of her own voice as a way to trigger emotions as well as explore the architecture of the space around the viewer. Christian Marclay, experiments with sound and images, also creating installations that reflect the artist's own manipulation of technology as a way of storytelling. Ultimately, sound is a medium that does not impose limitations; instead it offers great flexibility, making it an appealing tool for artists seeking freedom within their practices.
Curator of the groundbreaking sound art exhibition "Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound '' David Toop said: "One of the things I've always said about sound art, is that it's homeless in a way, because it doesn't really fit in any existing set out. It's a very uneasy fit with the art world. It doesn't exist until it comes to life within some environment or another."
In many ways, sound art investigates the way that sound behaves in different spaces, creating an immersive rather than demonstrative experience. It encourages us to interact with the work instead of simply being entertained by it.
1 - Susan Philips’s “Sleep Close and Fast” 2020
2 - Cover of manifesto “The art of noises” by Luigi Russolo 1913
3 - Garry Webb “Sound of the Blue Light” 2002