Galleries of Contemporary Art
Breaking the Sound Barrier:  sonic art 1860-2011

Breaking the Sound Barrier: sonic art 1860-2011

February 4–April 15, 2011

GOCA Downtown

Terry Allen, Jacki Apple, Charles Amirkhanian, Max Bernstein, Paul Bright, Adan De La Garza, Jim Green, Richard Lerman, Lou Mallozzi, David Moss, Senga Nengudi, Matt Pass, Helen Thorington, and Improv Everywhere


Events are free, but space is limited—register to secure your spot.

From the curator

Breaking the Sound Barrier: sonic art 1860 - 2011 is an anthology of the art of sound from the first audio recording of the French folk song Au Clair de la Lune by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville to work completed yesterday. Sound art has been firmly situated as part of a hybrid visual art practice, which in part focuses on expanding and engaging the non-visual aspects of perception. Like a painting's rich and varied colors, illusionary space, or nonobjective abstraction audio collage heightens the aural perception of a spatial environment, the color of sound or a sonic sensory experience.

Investigating the dimensions of sound through silence, noise, ambient textures, appropriation, geographic soundscapes, indeterminacy, narratives/text, and mashups sonic art encompasses intimate listening experiences, live multi-dimensional performances, sound sculptures and installations. Audio artists have captured the tiniest of sounds such as a tree growing to an ear piercing sonic boom to create complex collages that reflect the world we listen to and tune out.

Luigi Russolo, in his seminal text The Art of Noises, proclaims that noise didn't exist until the industrial era, before that the world was silent. John Cage took this one step further to state "Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations, Rain."

Like photography before and film after, recorded sound had profound conceptual implications on how art was defined and experienced. The evolution of reproductive modes from wax cylinders to reel-to-reel analog tape, vinyl albums to compact disks and digital code enabled the previously unrecordable to be recorded. Artists captured the ephemeral and continue to invoke the dead. The audio collage is revealed only through the unfolding of time and is simultaneously located and dislocated temporally and spatially. The original can be duplicated enabling the work to transcend boundaries as it can be experienced at the exact same moment in Colorado Springs, Nairobi, Beijing, and Beirut.

The old adage, often said in jest, 'you need a (fill in the blank) like you need another hole in your head' reflects our innate inability to block sound. We close our eyes to not see the monster in the closet, but we don't have ear lids to not hear it rustling to get out.

Valerie Brodar