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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sound art and spatial practices : situating sound installation art since 1958

  • Author(s): Ouzounian, Gascia
  • et al.

This dissertation examines the emergence and development of sound installation art, an under-recognized tradition that has developed between music, architecture, and media art practices since the late 1950s. Unlike many musical works, which are concerned with organizing sounds in time, sound installations organize sounds in space; they thus necessitate new theoretical and analytical models that take into consideration the spatial situated-ness of sound. Existing discourses on "spatial sound" privilege technical descriptions of sound localization. By contrast, this dissertation examines the ways in which concepts of space are socially, culturally, and politically construed, and how spatially-organized sound works reflect and resist these different constructions. Using an interdisciplinary methodology of critical spatial analysis and critical studies in music, this dissertation explores such topics as: conceptions of acoustic space in postwar Western art music, architecture, and media theory; the development of sound installation art in relation to philosophies of everyday life and social space; the historical links between musical performance, conceptual art, and sound sculpture; the body as a site for sound installations; and sonicspatial strategies that confront politics of race and gender. Through these different investigations, this dissertation proposes an "ontopological" model for considering sound: a critical model of analysis and reception that privileges an understanding of sound in relation to ontologies of space and place

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