„From the Sound Space“
Editors: Yvan Etienne, Bertrand Gauguet, Matthieu Saladin (Haute École des Arts du Rhin)
Deadline: 15 October 2013.
In their book on the philosophy of sound, Roberto Casati and Jérôme Dokic ask the following question as a preamble to a chapter on the relationship between sound and space: “could it be that space is but a sound space?” This issue of TACET seeks to start afresh with this assumption, firstly by investigating the sound practices of yesterday and today that originate both from the field of experimental music and that of sound art, which engage, occupy and thus consider the issues of space, but also by examining current societal changes in the soundscape which, as new subjects of research, permeate contemporary art.
The issue of space has historically been at the heart of sound installation practices, even representing the driving force which brought on the advent of Sound Art. Thus, Max Neuhaus, to whom, in particular, we owe this expression, embarked upon a series of works in the 1960s in which the act of listening to the environment rapidly moves towards site-specific sound art. It was at the same time that Alvin Lucier produced his first works reflecting on the propagation of sound in space and David Tudor dismissed the temporal nature of the concert by creating independent electroacoustic devices considered as sound ecosystems. While these works form part of the long-standing history of the experimental tradition, maintained by careful listening to the soundscape of industrial societies, and emerge after much research into the spatialization of sounds and the immersion of listening, they represent, nonetheless, a “spatial turn” in experimental sound practices. At the same time and following ethnomusicological investigations, the appearance of portable tape recorders has allowed musicians to take their microphones out from behind the closed doors of the studio and present compositional practice as the act of listening to the world (field recording in natural, urban and industrial surroundings), while multiple technological inventions replenish the tool box of musical creation via the use of new resonant spaces (echo, reverb etc.).
Space is never a neutral environment in which sounds spread: it has an impact on their colour and their length, just as the spatial position of the listener/spectator influences their perception. The same sound produced in different spaces will not have the same shape and may lead to different “contents” being heard, according to the places in which it is transmitted. But sounds do not merely depend on the space in which they are heard. They also produce space and even define it by their very organisation and by their repetition. Sound creates the territory, but it also complicates and rearranges its construction through sound overlapping and projection.
Today, research into sound spaces has lost none of its momentum and benefits from a range of practices, but it is also accompanied by questions linked to the recent development of sound environments and evidently by the continuous soundtrack of an everyday life which is itself trapped in the dialectic of the local and the global. Thoughts initiated by musicians and artists appear to follow, if not at times anticipate issues raised in the fields of architecture and urban planning, and which are scattered throughout the research into sound studies. While the majority of the initial artistic works on the spatiality of sound have concentrated solely on the acoustic properties of sound, aesthetic experiments on sound space have quickly focussed, since conceptual art and field investigation, on its social, political, institutional and ecological aspects, highlighting the extent to which the sound “boundaries” of a space can testify to and intersect other boundaries, both cultural and social as well as racial or gender boundaries: the sound space would also be a political space.
This next issue of TACET seeks to address these different points from an interdisciplinary perspective and to bring together an ensemble of studies (cross-disciplinary, general or focusing on the analysis of specific cases), examining sound space through the multiple problems which represent it and seek to define it. Among these focal points are: the strategies at work in contextual practices, the sound dimension of architecture, the stage space and scenography of sound art exhibitions, art in situ and site-engaged practices, listening spaces and the sound perception of space, the use of sound in institutional critique, sound installations in the public space and the history of spatialization.
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