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Article categories: Issue 69[ES] Embracing Sound
June 4th, 2009

Since commencing as the program manager for embracing sound (es) in February 2008, a concerted effort has been made to build industry networks and create programming initiatives to raise the profile and opportunities for sound arts practices in the Australian arts industry.In summary a few of these initiatives include:

•    Lobbying sound practitioners to submit applications to Australia Council Music Board ‘media arts’ grant rounds. Music board staff reported a 25% increase in funding applications to this area.
•    Partnered with Decode Media to present the inaugural Anode public arts festival in Sydney ( Anode was deemed such as success the City of Sydney council and various sponsors have already confirmed support for its staging in 2009. With plans to roll Anode out other capital cities of Australia, es will continue to consult Decode in the programming of sound arts for the festival.
•    Securing es’s nomination and membership with the Music Council of Australia (MCA), Australia’s peak music organization with Council membership including 50 members representing a broad cross section of Australia’s music industry. MCA serves many roles providing information and publications, coordinating research, advocacy and projects to advance music in Australia. es will be representing the computer music/multimedia sector, and in September 2008 participated in ‘Australian Musical Futures: Towards 2020’ think tank. Results of this summit will develop a report and recommendations to the Federal Government.
•    Liaising with the tertiary sector including UTS, RMIT and QUT to develop new research projects profiling and creating opportunities in the music and sound arts sectors.

Splinter Orchestra play around the 'Pop-up city' installation piece by Perran Costi and Clare Holland at Field Trip as part of the Anode Festival 2008. Image credit Anode.

Splinter Orchestra play around the 'Pop-up city' installation piece by Perran Costi and Clare Holland at Field Trip as part of the Anode Festival 2008. Image credit Anode.

Another core objective of the es role is to generate publications and research into the Australian sound arts sector. Rather than es being the sole author of such publications, we recognise the vast intellectual resources within our sector, and have strategically approached this goal through the lobbying of arts journals and institutions to feature sound arts. To ensure our presence is increased es has deliberately targeted avenues usually reserved for the visual arts sector. One such example is Art Monthly Australia (AMA), who have committed to regularly commissioning articles that focus on the arts of sound. In October and November 2009 we will be taking this partnership further where we will co-host internationally renowned sound arts theorist Douglas Kahn for a lecture tour and to guest edit an issue of AMA dedicated to critical dialogue surrounding the arts of sound. We also plan for this edition to include commissioned sound works for publication in either CD/DVD and/or web formats.

This commissioning project is addressing the lack of knowledge, awareness and critical dialogue surrounding the arts of sound in Australia’s wider arts arena. Sound arts has (somewhat of) a presence in Realtime Arts and some Australian music journals, but in a way this seems to isolate sound practices even further from the contemporary visual arts industry. This obscures the fact that experimental sound practices, more often than not, usually oscillate between the music/performance and visual/media arts practice areas.

The AMA/es ‘Arts of Sound’ issue will be launched in November 2009 during the ‘RE:Live’ International Media Art Histories (MAH) conference in Melbourne. Our strategy for developing this audio textual publication purposefully taps into the MAH conference  and its constituents whilst ensuring dialogue surrounding Australian sound arts is contemporaneous, with adequate avenues for consideration by our international peers.

A major aspect of recent media arts theory has been the emphasis on the need for media arts to be considered within its interdisciplinary intercultural contexts, rather the traditional modernist functions and methodologies applied to historicisation and canonisation in art history. Similarly the convergent practices of the arts of sound in the Australian context need to be reconsidered. Despite there being recent chronicling anthologies of Australian sound art practices, we are yet to see a theoretical analysis of that provides critical reflections to stridently reorient, historicise and contextualise our auditory practices within current media art theories. Under the guidance of Douglas Kahn, it is intended that texts and audio within the dedicated es/AMA issue will address this.

Essentially this project is a tactical strategic initiative in response to recent fieldwork and research by es. This research has identified a huge gap in education, knowledge and awareness of Australian arts of sound practices in the wider arts and conventional music communities. A core objective of the es/AMA commissioning project is to seek and create avenues to increase the exposure of Australian Arts of sound practices in the public arena and to a broader arts audience. To be adequately acknowledged the Australian sound arts sector needs to be resourced with material that directly engages with the multitude of disparate discourses that the arts of sound has resonance with. The interdisciplinary practices of sound arts and their association to a breadth of conventional arts fields are astounding. Yet in Australia there has been a dearth of recent material engaging with these associations.

A major (re)education and values (re)orientation of who makes funding and programming decisions at state/federal levels of the arts bureaucracies and our major cultural institutions is required. The es/AMA audio textual commissioning project is a strategic program documenting and substantiating our sound arts sector. Aside from creating new opportunities for Australian sound practitioners, the commissioning outcomes will in turn support and resource es’s advocacy responsibilities. For example: industry reports, seeking further funding avenues, programming and philanthropic support for the sound art sector.

With AMA printing 7,000 copies, with 2,000 subscribers and at least 15,000 readers each month, this initiative will produce a prolific material resource. This partnership, its associated published outcomes and public programs will create professional development opportunities and strategically increase the profile of Australian sound art practices to a range of audiences. The high circulation numbers, compact portability and affordability of AMA will ensure the ‘Arts of Sound’ edition be readily accessed by a broad demographic of national and international arts audiences. It will be a lasting material resource that will ensure the interdisciplinary cross promotion of Australian arts of sound practices.

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