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Sound Art as Participatory Practice and Institutional Critique

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The paper aims to re-examine the origins of sound art from the perspective of audience participation and the role it has in the formation of the art form. I focus on the three pioneering artists: the Baschet brothers, Max Neuhaus and Hildegard Westerkamp, and their respective practices of sound sculpture, sound installation and soundwalking. I show that reimagining the role of the listener as an active participant and co-creator was an important goal for these foundational practices. However, they differ in their approach towards participation. Sound sculptures engage the listeners in collective music-making. Sound installations invite the participants to re-compose spatially distributed sonic material into a personalized temporal musical sequence. Finally, soundwalks establish a relationship of aesthetic appreciation between the active, agentic listening of the walk’s participants and the everyday sound-making practices that compose the acoustic environment. Sound artists’ attitudes towards audience engagement can thus be also regarded as a form of institutional critique aimed at established institutions of (musical) listening.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPractices and Interpretations
Volume2
Issue4
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
ISSN2415-8852
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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