Article categories: ANAT ReportsIssue 66[ES] Embracing Sound
July 2nd, 2009

Sound art has a long history, going at least as far back as the Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo’s 1913 manifesto The Art of Noises, and his compositions for intonorumori, or noise machines.While some people, particularly from the visual arts and music worlds, continue to debate its definition, there is no doubt that its usage is expanding. Sound art now describes a range of practices, including experimental music performances and recordings, installation and sound sculpture, instrument building, sound poetry, sound design, radiophonics, online, interactive, generative and audiovisual work. Anything where sound and listening are among the main artistic concerns. Many contemporary sound artists’ practices encompass several of these forms.

Australia has a history of pioneering sound artists, and in the last decade has seen an explosion of activity from new generations of artists, some of whom have emerged from tertiary art, music and communications courses, and many of whom have been empowered by technological developments. The result is a diverse and vibrant contemporary sound culture.

Some of the most interesting activity in recent years has been happening at the grass roots level, through informal networks, artist-run spaces and sometimes illegal venues. Festivals, such as What is Music?, Electrofringe, Liquid Architecture, Unsound, Sounds Unusual, and the NOW now have become the visible, legitimate face of this culture and, within an economy based largely on enthusiasm and goodwill rather than money, have been acting as the de facto infrastructure for the sector. There have been concerns within the community about the sustainability of this situation.

ANAT is committed to supporting Australian sound artists. The embracing sound [ES] program commenced in July 2007 as an initiative of ANAT and the Music Board of the Australia Council, in recognition of the need to document and support Australia’s sound art community.

The project documents events, facilitates communication between local and international artists and organisations, and advocates for financially sustainable sound art projects. Through publications, a web portal, CD/DVD productions and a presence at sound art events, esp supports and encourages emerging sound artists, promotes and profiles mid-career artists, and acknowledges and celebrates Australian pioneers in sound arts and experimental music. esp is connecting sound artists to each other and to the broader cultural sector.

Constantly developing in its scope and activities, and guided by the needs and concerns of the sound art community, esp is committed to all Australian sound artists, and will continue to investigate new strategies for sustainability.

esp provides an important service to the Australian sound art sector, helping this vibrant and exciting culture to mature and reach new audiences.

Shannon O’Neill
Shannon was embracing sound Program Manager at ANAT from 2008-2009.

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