The Sound of Art





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Published on Oct 4, 2010

For the past five years I've been looking at art and writing about what I see. But I've also been listening. Does art have a distinctive sound? Sometimes I think I could be in a remote cabin in Maine, and still instantly recognize the sound of an art video or a performance piece. Yet the things I hear in galleries and performance spaces don't seem to share any formal qualities -- they run the gamut from noise to melody, recitation to wordless grunts.

I want to produce an album full of the sounds art makes in order to document and investigate this range, but I also want to take such sounds and set them free in the world, to be remixed and reused -- sampled, mashed up, Auto-tuned, chopped and screwed.

More people than ever are engaged in this kind of cultural recycling, though they rarely draw their sources from the field of fine art. Frankly, the art world doesn't make it easy -- it's a profession invested in its own scarcity.

More than anything, I want to make a record of the Sound of Art because I want to see what people will do with it. It's a project guided by Jasper Johns' description of the art-making process: "Do something, do something to that, and then do something to that."

The Sound of Art is a limited edition vinyl LP composed of sounds heard in New York galleries, museums, and project spaces over the last five years. Inspired by classic DJ battle records, it features forty tracks of diverse sounds culled from art video, performance footage, and kinetic sculptures. This is not an easy listening record. It's an audio document and a tool to create new sounds and new work.

Work by artists well-known and not-so-well-known. Difficult electronics. Sounds of stampeding animals, Hebrew prayer, a transformer fire, a children's carousel. One hundred carpenters pounding 10,000 nails. Field recordings of recordings by guitar genius John Fahey, and archival sound pieces by the pioneering conceptualist Lawrence Weiner. An iPod drum circle and thoughts on nostalgia. Also, yes, a toy monkey with cymbals.

Sounds have been donated by a large spectrum of artists and venues throughout New York City -- everywhere from big fancy museums to odd little project spaces. We've also introduced Internet artists, as "wild cards" on this album.

This is a collaborative project, with dozens of people donating their work and their services. Project Manager Michelle Halabura has been working from Art Fag City headquarters since last spring to make Sound of Art a reality.

Fundraising Consultant Sarah Landreth and BAM visual art curator David Harper have donated their time and skills advising on the campaign.

Matt Madly Azzarto at Think Tank Studio will be producing the record.

Phillip Niemeyer of Double Triple is designing the album cover, and is offering a limited edition offset lithograph to 10 lucky funders at the $200 level. Edition of 60, see the print HERE.

Celebrated performance and video artist Michael Smith will create a limited edition screen print of 50 in response to the sounds on the album, available to funders at the $250 level. See his bio HERE.

Artist Ben Coonley of Valentine for Perfect Stranger and NYUFF Dr. Zizmor Trailor fame will produce our promotional videos.

Men-about-town AndrewAndrew will host the record release party and Sound of Art DJ Battle, to be held at the ever-cool Santos Party House.


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