Experiments with sound

I am interested in experimental music, and in particular, musicians and composers who are using, or have used, synthesizing digital or electronic technologies.  I am especially interested in the idea of building up visual montage through the embodied relation of sound to image.  Digital and electronic music is built up by using layers of sound and metaphor, including such things as samples and loops. Often, experimental composers will create graphic music notations as scores instead of traditional music notation.

The relation between the sound and graphic layers creates a series of affective images. Essentially, I want to integrate printmaking practices with digital technologies to create a print tapestry that mimics sound – a sonic inspired montage.

Photography

While the non-representational photograph has captured my attention, I have focused on the out of focus to abstract a scene. By subtracting the detail to preserve the essence of the framed, I have used the camera as a tool to alter reality and distort vision. I have been interested in using photography in this way since the late 90’s. I am still interested in this approach, but I am looking to add complexity to the images, but trying to retain simplicity. Thinking with sound – printing with sound – may be one way to do this.

Sound

What really gets me excited is experimental music.

Sonic surprises.

The unexpected and non-linear.

Without narrative or conversation.

When I am not sure where a piece of music is going, where it’s taking me, or how it will end, I think of this as a sound adventure.

So far my art practice has felt flat. One image to be read at a time. I want to try to lend it some experimental vigour.

While the non-representational photograph has captured my attention, I have focused on the out of focus to abstract a scene. By subtracting the detail to preserve the essence of the framed, I have used the camera as a tool to alter reality and distort vision. I have been interested in using photography in this way since the late 90’s. I am still interested in this approach, but I am looking to add complexity to the images, but trying to retain simplicity. Thinking with sound – printing with sound – may be one way to do this.

Since starting this project, I have been using music as a direct source of influence in my art practice, by listening to music and creating photomontages at the same time.  Artists using music as their “subject” is not a new idea.

One inspiration for me in this work is John Cage, and his multi-disciplinary approach towards sound, print, and text.  Studying some of Cage’s print work will inform my own experimentation with multiple forms of content (images and text), so adding affective layers to my print tapestry. I will focus on the etchings Cage did over a 15-year period at Crown Point Press in San Francisco, together with his experimental writing, including the lectures and writings found in his book, Silence.

I will be thinking about the following questions when creating my sonic montages:

  1. Do images act as sound agents?
  2. Given that music is an experience of temporality and print temporal in a different way (we can explore this difference in the discussion), how can I create layered prints that unexpectedly delight, as with sonic surprises?
  3. How might we use visual registers to embody the resonance of sound samples?

My motivation with this research project has the following two objectives:

  1. By using experimental music rather than a visual object to work from, I will seek to sample, synthesize, and abstract narratives from the photographs I work from. The final images aim to be abstract yet affective, but which perform, in their visuality, some of the experimental encounters manifest in sound art.
  1. By becoming more attuned to the processes of layering and building experimental music, I want to build and layer images in experimental combinations of, like sound: texture, depth, shimmer, touch, movement, and evolution. These, I hope will add richness and complexity to my work.

By trying to add texture and dimension into a flat, static space, I have the following questions in mind:

Can images act as sound agents, and vice versa?

Can I create prints that unexpectedly delight like sonic surprises?

Can I use visual symbols to represent sound samples? And are these symbols resonant, in similar ways, for others. In other words, do particular sounds and images share an affective force, a felt embodiment that comes from the sound- image, rather than an interpretive representation that is placed on the sound. If we feel sound, literally, which we do, do we similarly feel vision. Can this force be imaged, if not represented?

Since I started this experiment, I have been listening to music differently, and thinking about the following:

What does sound look like?

What shape does a particular sound have, is it small and bright, or fat, soft, and/or translucent?

Do the shapes flow from left to right, or have a gravitational pull from being weighty, or do the sounds float and dance up like bubbles in a carbonated drink?

And how does print’s feeling, texture, and depth, rather than simply the flatness of photography play into the reverberation of this felt process.

We know that we can print sound, as in vinyl; feeling sound is another matter. Perhaps vision, and the textured vision of print, may help us to appreciate how we are literally moved by, and so moved to make things, by the resonance of the sound-images themselves.

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