SONIC ART: Using Data as Music

When I began my educational journey into the world of art I thought I had left music behind. I remember my first month on my foundation course and telling my tutor that I wanted nothing more to do with the music industry and just to concentrate on visual work, he laughed out loud and just said, we will see. I recently looked back into my development journal from art foundation and it was so clear that there was music and sound swimming around everything that I was creating. I brought out a painting that I created 8 years ago called colours in motion, I didn’t realise at the time I was painting sound. I am really excited that I now have a better understanding of my work. I have a clearer vision of my art practice.


Painting by Lianne Morgan


Painting by lianne Morgan

I am no longer fighting myself or what my past represents, I am listening and moving in the natural direction. I no longer have to write commercial music or perform commercial songs for fear of paying my bills and I feel totally liberated that I am no longer in a stagnant place.

At my lecture on Sonic art , I left feeling rather old. The lecturer was explaining about how music and sound have developed, the journey it has taken. I can remember buying my first sampler, I can remember setting up my studio with an Atari and Tascam reel to reel, I can remember when records moved to cd, then to DAT then to mini-disk then finally to audio files, mp3. I can also remember when a group of my friends starting building computers in the late 80s. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Starting to think I knew it all and I was past it, he then showed us a youtube video of John Cage talking about Silence: which stirred my interest but agitated my relationship with conceptual art, but there is something very clear about John Cage, his passion. The glint in his eye when he speaks of sound. Finally I realise actually I don,t love music I love sound, everything to do with sound, the formation sound makes, the organised chaos of sound, even the sound of silence.

Over the last few weeks I have dipped in and out of interest with Sonic Art. I have found some of the aspects that I have been introduced too frustratingly ridiculous, one being Music Concrete, but after doing more research I see this was the prototype and the beginning into sampling and EDM. Max Mathews who was part of Music Concrete Movement introduced taped music which transformed music from being ephemeral to being permanent. Pierre Schaeffer the founder of Music Concrete lead the way for the sampler to be invented with his digital signal processing compositions. It was in 1940s that his work began, but it was not until 1979 when the Quasar M8 sampler was introduced that the musicians embraced and flourished using music sampling.

Steve Reich is a composer, his compositions are very complex but I would class him as sonic artist and not a composer. I also did not think he was an artist or musician but again after further investigation I discovered his forward thinking was what brought the art of phasing into the western world, phasing being when two identical melodic patterns gradually fade out of sync. After discovering this I listened to Daniel Variations 2006, Pendulum Music 1968, and Drumming 1971 with a new understanding and a new found knowledge I could appreciate his skill but still the music pieces are far from beautiful although I now know that is not Steve Reichs requirement from his work.

Looking into the coding of music has been interesting, discovering all the variations of musical scales from other traditions and parts of the world. It does appear that it is very much a western approach that we have the need for order, even in music. Whilst researching into Steve Reich I came across Karl Hein Stockhausen and Luciano Berio they were working with just twelve notes, they would invert them, over lap them but kept only to the twelve notes. In a way they were trying to create their own code. The Twelve notes lead me into listening to Arvo Part- Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britton, this piece consists of minor chords descending and overlapping, creating the phasing that was introduced by Steve Reich.

I work on a regular basis with cubase and pro tools there is another code in regard to music technology which is more visual, its laid out more like a graph and is marked out as straight lines taken the notes across the time line. You can also view the sound wave and manipulate it and effect it as you like. All these codes that are developed are only an interface in which we are invited to interact with one another using the same language. I have in the past become very frustrated with classically trained musicians that I have worked with, when I have played a chord and they have told me that it doesn’t exist, when it clearly does as I have just played it. I have an understanding of why we need order and codes within music but it also creates barriers against creativity.

In the last few years I have developed an obsession with frequency which is the foundation of music and sound, so when I was introduced to Christine Kubish – Electrical Walks  on sounds emitted from Electro Magnetic Waves within the environment, I was inspired by her work. I also enjoyed Christine Sunkim, work is based on trying to make sound visible, which is a practice that I am using. Lisa Park uses brain frequency to manipulate singing bowls.

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