Dr. Alexandros Kontogeorgalcapoulos- Sonic Art

In this lecture Kontogeorgalcapoulos began with drawing a connection between the industrial revolution that revolutionised factory production methods and the structure of an orchestra. In an Orchestra each performer has a specific part to play to contribute to the creation of a piece of music, just like on the production line of a factory, workers each carry out a task to create a product at the end.

Kontogeorgalcapoulos gave us an insight to the history of music, specifically electronic music. The first artist/composer/philosopher we looked at was John Cage. Cage looked at the future of music. He would perform a piece using weird and abstract instruments, such as a bathtub, a watering can, a flower-pot etc. He would compose and perform a piece of music by moving around various objects and each noise would contribute to the overall sound of the piece. I’m not to sure what I think about this weird concept art. I can see what he was trying to do but it didn’t really make a lasting impression on me. However, it was interesting that Cage, in his manifesto, predicted the era of electronic music.


Iannis Xanakis is the second person that we looked at. He is commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers. Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models in music and was also an important influence on the development of electronic and computer music. He integrated music with architecture, designing music for pre-existing spaces, and designing spaces to be integrated with specific music compositions and performances. I find this a very interesting concept, but when I listen to some of his pieces I have to admit I struggled to understand what he was doing with the sounds and I couldn’t really relate to it.

Pierre Schaeffer was the first person to bring in the technique of sampling, mixing, cutting, looping tracks. This revolutionised music production and began the trend of producing music via sampling, cutting, pasting and mixing. So, when Karlheinz Stockhausen came along and began creating sound using computers, the era of electronic music production was kicked off. One of Stockhausen’s keen interests was production of musical sounds at the deepest levels, so rather than just listening to musical sound, he would actually look at the sound waves on the computer and super organising musical sounds. a keen interest of his was to create sound by colour. Once again I thing this concept is very interesting but I don’t find the outcomes very pleasing! The sounds didn’t really match together to form a coherent piece and therefore I find it hard to relate to the piece.pierre-schaeffer-06

Max Mathews was similar to Stockhausen in his electronic music production however, he used the computer to completely control the production of sound. The both were very OCD with controlling the sound waves, refining them down to perfection, calculating every possible sound with the computer.

The next artist of interest was a more modern-day composer; Brian Eno. I personally like Brian Eno, he music is very chill and ambient. He was in fact the pioneer of the ambient music genre. Eno works with the process of music making, and takes individual elements and puts them together to make a piece. It is very minimalist, but very relaxing!

We then moved on to music technology, beginning with good old manuscript paper. However, music was revolutionised when the technology was invented to be able to record music, and the emerging of recording studios dedicated to recording music. Then came the  and with this the electronic music industry took off, giving one the ability to sample in and play sounds of any dimension. This led to digital workstations where one can, on-screen, cut, paste, sample, loop etc sound files, just like Schaeffer did with his tapes, accept this is all digitally and with access to a whole range of different sounds. With this technology came synthesis processing using different techniques such as subtractive, additive, distortion, physical modelling etc. Algorithmic composition emerged from this method of digitally producing music, which gave light to using Arduino to creat sound by interacting with an object. Arduino is just a microprocessor which you can write code for telling it to take out various task depending on the situation.



So Sonic art is really the term designated to an art form when sound is the basic unit and everything else is built up around that. It is taking sound and using it as a potter would use clay; to build up a form, a structure, a piece of art that is sonic rather than visual, although the sounds may provoke visual images in one’s imagination. I think it is an interesting subject area, which is still in the process of defining itself, pushing into new territories and discovering new ways of being. However, I don’t really like the examples of sonic art that I have heard, it is too experimental for me, and although the concepts are interesting it doesn’t really deliver. I like the idea of using sound as a way to paint pictures, forms and creat an experience but it needs more development before it will appeal to me as a final piece.


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