..or Sonic Arts for Dummies (a work in progress). How do you describe Sonic Arts? What is it, how does it work? What do you do with it? Trevor Wishart might have coined the phrase and wrote the book, but shadows persist.
[ref]Wishart, Trevor. 1996. On Sonic Art. New and revised edition. Contemporary Music Studies 12. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers. This is a great book with a lot of information on Wishart’s techniques and is also interesting for the snapshot of what it was like to work with computers in the 1980’s (the book was first published in 1985).[/ref] It seems that the easy definitions include rock/pop/electro-anything and splashes in a little producing for good measure. This would work if we lived in a mono-dimensional world with history starting a few decades ago. Defining Sonic Arts around pop music with electronics is like defining contemporary as today’s popular music or defining classical music as any music that is old and played by orchestras. Wishart defines Sonic Art:
To avoid getting into semantic quibbles, I have therefore entitled this book On Sonic Art and wish to answer the question what is, and what is not, ‘sonic art’. We can begin by saying that sonic art includes music and electro acoustic music.
(Wishart 1996: 4)
That would have been great, if he had stopped there. But then he breaks it up in two groups (text-sound and sound-effects) and before long we are in a world that can be as exclusive and hermetic as pop music with electronics.
I’m working through the problem. I’ve played around with some mind mapping for fleshing out something that should be as exclusive as it is inclusive (having borders is fine and sometimes necessary, but not everywhere and not all the time).
Oh, Sonic Arts, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
Computer programming is a central skill, part of the craft developed in the art
STEM connections are both explicit and implied
A composer wants to add amplification to an instrumental ensemble for a special effect , room acoustics and psychoacoustics are in play
A scientist develops an analysis/re- synthesis technique to morph phonemes for speech research, composers may use the same technology to morph instruments
A composer creates an series of harmonic progressions from a spectral analysis of one note played on a contrabass
Audio to MIDI technology is used to develop compositional material from field recordings
A theatre director wants an actors movements to trigger sound (or light or video)
A dancer wants to use her movements to control a complex algorithm providing music and image creation and manipulation during a performance
A biologist wants to know what the life cycle of an infected cell sounds compared to a healthy cell in researching an advanced warning system
A game designer wants to develop an immersive environment that places acoustic space atthe centre of the game’s strategy
An installation artists wants to use sound as the driving force of an interactive sound and video piece in a gallery
A museum wants individualized sound to be used to project audio in a eliminated space only
A performer needs to condense many effects into a more compact space
An music editor (or composer) needs to transcribe out of date technology to more viable means of performance
Technology developed to wirelessly connect many machines to both simplify performances and create new possibilities of performances
Customizing the utilization of DSP for a work of art
DSP becoming the work of art
The ability to combine many technologies into one work of art (interactivity, audio analysis, synthesis, realtime audio treatments, score and/or gesture following, VR and game tracking technologies)
I have, as a sonic artist, assisted and collaborated with composers, performers, stage directors, scientists, engineers, programmers, teachers, visual artists, choreographers anddancers, museum directors, and gardeners
What’s in a name?
The use of sound in art
Concert music with a computer music designer
More elaborate multimedia works involving interactivity and sound design