Sound Art

2 Sound Sculpture

From early on, the structuring role and activity of the recipient/participant was significant, either due to real interaction in the sense of control or regulation of audiovisual events or due to an individual’s movement in space and focus of attention, which determine the flow of perceived perspectives and stimuli. The creation of new instruments by Harry Partch (Cloud Chamber Bowls, 1950/51) and the structures sonores by Bernard and François Baschet (Schlagzeug, 1955) are sound sculptures not only because they appeal to both the eye and the ear. Because their construction produces very rich and changing frequency spectra, individual sounds develop such a complex form and inner dynamic that they become much like physical sculptures. Thus, they also can be played by the untrained visitor. Here, system behavior can be derived from the observation of constructive features and mechanical operations. The electronic sound sculptures by Peter Vogel are controlled by the light and shadows cast by visitors. The artist translates their system behavior into an algorithm that is invisibly integrated into the electric wiring: unlike in the previous examples, the emerging sound sequences cannot be anticipated on the basis of visual information, but have to be tested empirically (Musikalisch-kybernetisches Environment, 1975). Some two decades later, it was only with an ironic (though poetic) sidelong glance at the market of consumer electronics that Erwin Stache could realize his Klangkästen (1994), which also use the incidence of light as the control parameter; after all, different models of Vogel’s idea have long since been available as cheap consumer items such as electronic greeting cards.