I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more sculptors making use of sound in their work. Even though Wikipedia has quite a list, it’s not something you run into very often. Also, most of the artists on the list have only made use of sound one, or only quite a few times in their career.
Pinuccio Sciola, a quite renowned Italian sculptor who sadly passed away two months ago, was one of those artists who used sound in his sculptures, and even performed them. Often called “the man who makes the rocks sing”, his most famous works are the Pietre Sonore, or the Sounding Stones: sculptures, often made of limestone, that he used to play with his hands or with small rocks.
His ideas on these sounding stones were quite spiritual: he believed that stones have a voice that has always been there, but he only helps to release it. His limestone sculptures for example make a sound of a “liquid quality” when played, because geologically seen limestone is just fossillized water. As if the memory of water was imprisoned inside the stone during glaciation. An interesting way of looking at the world which might be very abstract, but helps one to think about long timespans.
To the rational minds that are sceptical of his ideas, Sciola only had only one thing to say: “I want to remind those who are sceptical that all the information circulated today by computers and digital networks in the end is stored and elaborated using infinitesimal silicon crystals.”
Jeroen Diepenmaat is a Dutch artist with a predilection for sound, living and working in Deventer, the Netherlands. His works in public space are quite compelling. With a recent release on esc.rec., “Drums for Eugène”, and sound installation “Ode to the meeting of Miss van E. and Mister van C.”, his works are more and more leaning towards sound art. Another example of this is “belcanto”, where bells ring when you cycle over tubes.
“Ode…” consists of 83 music boxes in a forest in Diepenveen in the Netherlands, all playing two notes when a cord is pulled. When multiple boxes are activated, the noted come together, creating a melody.
Just like two people can meet each other coincidentally, and can become inseparable. A nice idea, and a nice intervention in public space.
Back in 2009, we wrote about TANK-FX, a website where you could upload a sound and have it played back in a former water tank somewhere in Germany. After it recorded your played back sound, it would send you back an MP3 of the recording. TANK-FX has since gone defunct, and every so often I think of it and Google it but it really doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
This is why I got quite excited when we got an e-mail about a project called The TANK: a 20 meter tall, 12 meters wide empty steel water tank in Rangely, Colorado. And while it’s functionality is different, it’s quite interesting. “Sonic thinker” Bruce Odland discovered the place in 1976, and it became a place where a small group of musicians and sound artists recorded their music for decades. With a shifting, swirling reverberation longer and richer than the Taj Majal or Great Pyramid, it is quite the acoustic marvel.
By 2012 the TANK was in danger of falling silent. It was decaying in the elements. Luckily, a organisation formed and they succesfully did two Kickstarter projects, and now the TANK is alive and kicking, and serving as an educational place to learn about sound and for musicians to record in. The immersive experience encourages visitors to learn about sound from within, by experimenting through sound, movement, cause-and-effect… A stunning initiative, and a unique place for sonic arts. And while you might not be able to upload sounds and get them back played in the tank (convolution reverbs have become good enough to emulate just that), it does serve an even better purpose, I think. It’ll definitely be on my list the next time I’m in Colorado.
Jeroen Uyttendaele & Dewi de Vree are two artists from the iii initiative, an artist-run platform supporting radical interdisciplinary practices engaging with image, sound and the body. We’ve featured work by iii-artists before. “Ground” is a performance that Uyttendaele and de Vree have been doing for years, but when I saw it in Berlin a few weeks back, it still seemed novel to me.
In Ground, graphite drawings are used as a control interface for several electronic instruments. By drawing, erasing and touching, they’re able to control pitch, amplitude and sound colour. Graphite is conductive, so conducts electricity. In Ground, it is used as a variable resistor, instead of using a standard knob. Basically, they’re drawing an integral part of an electronic circuit.
In a way, de Vree and Uyttendaele “draw” their own controller, live. Because of this, it allows for a great field of experimentation possibilities in which auditive and visual elements are interconnected. Drawing, touching, slowly or rapidly repositioning instruments: the sound is modulated immediatly, creating a performance that blends senses together. A very tangible way of making live electronic music. If they’re ever playing near you, I suggest you go see the performance!