Sound art: you can’t touch it, but it can move you

Sounds surround us. And as technology offers new opportunities and means to capture, twist, repurpose and subvert it, innovators and creators are increasingly looking to the sonic realm as a medium for artistic expression. In this article we introduced some key practitioners and patrons of the flourishing global soundscape. This time we turn our attentions to some festivals, platforms and organisations creating and delivering the world’s greatest sonic experiences to earlobes in Australia and beyond.

The NOW Now (Sydney)
Australia’s longest-running festival of ‘spontaneous music, experimental sound and outlier performance’, Sydney’s The NOW Now is an artist-run initiative and champion of the non-commercial. Its annual festival – held in January – brings together dozens of uncompromising artists from all over the world, representing a broad spectrum of sonic artistry. From contemporary orchestral music to walls of noise, if you’re looking for a physical initiation to the world of sound art that’s close to home – The NOW Now is the place.

Liquid Architecture (Melbourne)
Liquid Architecture is a trusted host of ‘experiences at the intersection of contemporary art and experimental music’. At the heart of the LA philosophy is the exploration not only of sound itself, but the infinite possibilities for discourse it presents. Their program runs year-round, with artists occupying performance spaces ranging from iconic rock venues to galleries, outdoor sites and arts centre halls. And because events pop up in towns and cities across the country – and even throughout Asia – you don’t necessarily have to travel too far to take in a unique aural experience.

Elektronmusik Studion (Stockholm, Sweden)
The pacemaker, the zipper, the three-point seatbelt – the Swede’s take innovation seriously, so it’s no surprise their institutional support of sonic exploration is the envy of sound artists everywhere. An extension of Swedish performing arts agency Musikverket, EMS offers professional music studios for experimental practitioners, as well as opportunities for intra- and cross-platform collaboration. And with a calendar of guest performers that reads like a who’s-who of international contemporary sound art, even if EMS isn’t your primary reason for long-hauling to Stockholm, it’s certainly worth a visit while you’re there. For more inspiration, check out the gadgets in this video.

HearSay Festival (Kilfinane, Ireland)
HearSay is the festival award-winning Danish radio maker Rikke Houd labelled ‘Woodstock for audio’. Over three nights, this tiny mountain village plays host to scores of events and performances by the world’s most innovative audio creators and manipulators. Not just a place for sonic boundary-pushing, the festival hosts practitioners from several audio disciplines, from radio broadcast and podcast to film and theatre sound; music to audio fiction to the downright unclassifiable. HearSay 2017 completely booked out, and featured Australian audio storytellers Kate Montague and Mike Williams. The next one happens in April 2019, so you’ve still got time to save for that airfare.

Tune in without stepping out Of course, if you’re interested in learning more about sound art but not quite sure where to start, dedicated blogs and websites are a great stepping-off point. Sites like Everyday Listening, Audio Cookbook and Ear Room bring together critique, artist insights and audio tracks so you can get an aural degustation of what’s out there before committing to a sit-down meal. There are countless others, and many in the community link together to ensure simple navigation down infinite sonic wormholes. But be warned, to retrace your steps through this labyrinth it pays to leave a trail of pixelated breadcrumbs.

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NHC blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.