Christoph Cox

  • MATTERS OF THE HEART

    IN MID-OCTOBER, the seventy-six-year-old percussionist, herbalist, scientist, and martial artist Milford Graves stood before an admiring audience at the Artist’s Institute on New York’s Upper East Side. “Well, I must say this is a new adventure for me,” he began with a buoyant smile. “It’s like I’m starting all over again.” Pointing to a sculpture across the room—a dunun-carrying skeleton swathed in a tangle of wires connected to laptops, circuit boards, and anatomical models—Graves remarked, “I’m entering a whole new era, because I’m on to my next sculpture piece now, and then another

  • “Non-Cochlear Sound”

    Marcel Duchamp notoriously dismissed modern painting as merely visual, calling instead for an “antiretinal” art that would “put painting once again at the service of the mind.” In his recent book In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art (2009), Seth Kim-Cohen levels a parallel charge against sound art. From its inception in the late 1940s, Kim-Cohen argues, sound art has been almost exclusively concerned with sound as sensuous material and hence has failed to take the Conceptual turn that has marked the visual arts over the past four decades. The “non-cochlear” practice called

  • Max Neuhaus

    BY THE TIME OF HIS DEATH on February 3, Max Neuhaus was widely regarded as a, if not the, founding father of “sound art.” Neuhaus never liked the term, which came into circulation decades after he began using sound as a medium in site-specific installations. Asked in 2000 to provide an elder statesman’s endorsement of a self-described “sound art” exhibition, Neuhaus responded with an essay deriding the term. “It’s as if perfectly capable curators in the visual arts suddenly lose their equilibrium at the mention of the word sound,” he wrote. “These same people who would all ridicule a new art

  • John Cage

    Everyone knows something about John Cage, but few know him as anything more than a musical prankster––the guy who composed a silent piece and stuck bolts between piano strings.

    Everyone knows something about John Cage, but few know him as anything more than a musical prankster––the guy who composed a silent piece and stuck bolts between piano strings. Curator Joan Cerveró hopes to go beyond this perception with an unprecedented, hugely ambitious program: a ninety-day immersion in the composer’s worldview via concerts, installations, lectures, and workshops. In a nod to Cage’s role in bridging sound art and music, Cerveró will divide the EACC’s exhibition space into a set of “imaginary landscapes,” platforms that will present the music in installation

  • sound art

    SOUND ART: BEYOND MUSIC, BETWEEN CATEGORIES, BY ALAN LICHT. NEW YORK: RIZZOLI, 2007. 304 PAGES. $50.

    BACKGROUND NOISE: PERSPECTIVES ON SOUND ART, BY BRANDON LABELLE. NEW YORK: CONTINUUM, 2006. 316 PAGES. $25.

    SOUND ART IS an uncertain category and practice. The label itself—in circulation since the mid-1980s but only widespread during the past decade—is dismissed by some prominent practitioners and used sloppily by critics and curators. Visual artists predominantly wonder whether sound art is not really just music, and many musicians either reject the arty whiff of the term or latch onto

  • John Baldessari: Music

    Also on view at the Bonner Kunstverein

    A welcome start at addressing the underexplored relationship between Conceptual art and sound, this dual-venue exhibition traces a musical motif that runs through the work of Conceptualist pioneer and stalwart John Baldessari. Curator Stefan Gronert has organized a thematic retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Bonn that features more than fifty works (paintings, photographs, videos, and mixed media) spanning the artist’s career, from his delightfully awkward video John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt, 1972, to more recent

  • “Sonambiente”

    DURING THE WORLD CUP–obsessed summer of 2006, Berlin may have been the epicenter of soccer culture, but for decades it has been the unofficial global capital of sound art, which the city’s institutions have steadfastly and proudly supported. In 1980, the Akademie der Künste presented “Für Augen und Ohren” (For Eyes and Ears), a landmark exhibition that provided a historical backdrop for the emergence of sound art as a distinct category and introduced a generation of artists for whom sound was the primary medium. Berlin’s commercial galleries have been friendly to sound since the late ’70s, when

  • Christoph Cox

    1 MÄRZ, WIR SIND HIER (KARAOKE KALK) Berliners Ekkehard Ehlers and Albrecht Kunze produce a record of lush pop informed by their roots in electronic minimalism revealing, along the way, the link between lap steels and laptops.

    2 SUSAN HOWE & DAVID GRUBBS, THIEFTH (BLUE CHOPSTICKS) A lovely collaboration between sonic experimentalist David Grubbs and poet Susan Howe. Howe’s paratactic evocations of Henry David Thoreau’s and Herman Melville’s New England are enveloped, sliced, and stuttered by Grubbs’s acoustic and electronic composition.

    3 CHRISTOF MIGONE, CHRISTOF MIGONE—SOUND VOICE PERFORM

  • LOST IN TRANSLATION: SOUND IN THE DISCOURSE OF SYNAESTHESIA

    In the late 1940s, radio engineer-turned-composer Pierre Schaeffer celebrated a defining property of audio recording and radio transmission: the ability to separate sounds from their visible sources. This affirmation cut against the grain of modern thought, for no lesser cultural critics than Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, and Max Horkheimer had assailed these technologies for dulling our auditory sensibility. Schaeffer, however, argued that records and radio triumphantly subvert the hegemony of vision to make possible the experience of “sound as such.” In doing so, Schaeffer continued, they

  • Christoph Cox

    CHRISTOPH COX

    1. Various Artists, Radio Java (Sublime Frequencies) From the teeming airwaves of Indonesia’s largest island comes this frantic and mind-blowing collage of gamelan-driven pop, saccharine jingles, muezzin calls, histrionic film dialogue, DJ banter, Javanese punk rock, and other gems, compiled by Sun City Girls’ Alan Bishop.

    2. Sachiko M/Toshimaru Nakamura/Otomo Yoshihide, Good Morning Good Night (Erstwhile) The reigning triumvirate of Japanese experimental improvisation presents its sublimely understated aesthetic of emptiness by way of no-record turntable, no-input mixing board, and

  • “Treble”

    In 2000, sound-art pioneer Max Neuhaus responded to the tremendous resurgence of interest in his field by calling for a dissolution of the term that he himself had helped to coin. “Sound art,” Neuhaus contended, had become a sloppy catchphrase encompassing a slew of disparate practices whose only common denominator was that they bore some relationship to sound. “Sound Art,” he concluded, “has been consumed.”

    Neuhaus’s declaration provided the springboard for “Treble,” a group show at SculptureCenter organized by independent curator Regine Basha. Though sound remained the thread that tied the

  • Treble

    Despite an explosion of interest in the art form over the past few years, New York hasn’t hosted a major sound-art exhibition since P.S. 1’s “Volume: Bed of Sound” extravaganza in 2000.

    Despite an explosion of interest in the art form over the past few years, New York hasn’t hosted a major sound-art exhibition since P.S. 1’s “Volume: Bed of Sound” extravaganza in 2000. “Treble,” organized by Regine Basha, a curator at Arthouse in Austin, Texas, brings sound-art practice up-to-date, featuring nineteen works by an intriguing selection of international artists—from pioneer Max Neuhaus and reigning audio stars Steve Roden and Stephen Vitiello to lesser-known sonic explorers such as Grady Gerbracht, Brad Tucker, and Andrea Ray—working in a variety of media:

  • Christoph Cox

    CHRISTOPH COX

    1. David Sylvian, Blemish (Samadhi Sound) The former pop icon reemerges as a convincing experimentalist, wrapping his sumptuous baritone around Derek Bailey’s angular guitar and Christian Fennesz’s electronic mulch.

    2. Cul de Sac, Death of the Sun (Strange Attractors Audio House) Boston’s psychedelic quintet slows it down, clears space for turntables and electronics, and offers a gorgeous meditation on loss and memory.

    3. Yasunao Tone, Yasunao Tone (Asphodel) Fluxus veteran Tone brings turntablism into the digital realm, producing noisy bursts and spastic stutters that teeter between

  • neo-modernist sound art

    “WHATEVER HAPPENED to postmodernism?” asked the critic Hal Foster in 1993, reflecting on the apparent exhaustion of the postmodernist project in art and theory. Rather than declare the end of postmodernism, however, Foster went on to sketch a complex historical picture in which modernism and postmodernism are engaged in a kind of temporal dance, where one or the other comes to the fore at different moments.

    Foster’s suggestive analysis helps account for the steady reemergence of modernist commitments and strategies over the past decade and particularly in the past several years. In critical

  • David Toop

    “ARCHITECTURE IS FROZEN MUSIC,” Friedrich Schelling remarked at the beginning of the nineteenth century, signaling both the distance between these two arts and their proximity. In some respects, they lie at opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum: Music is the most ethereal, immaterial, and temporal of arts, architecture the most earthbound and palpable. Yet they have always shared a secret affinity. With rare exception, Western music is played and heard indoors and has always had to respond to the shape and stuff of its constructed environment. It’s no accident that the Gregorian chant—with

  • Steve Reich

    NO FORM OF CLASSICAL MUSIC has exerted so enduring and pervasive an influence on pop culture as minimalism. Kellogg’s commercials and John Carpenter movie sound tracks, New Age schlock and abstract hip-hop all overtly cop such minimalist trademarks as repetitive keyboard vamps and hallucinatory vocal cut-ups. Indeed, from its inception in the early ’60s, musical minimalism actively blurred the boundaries between “high” and “mass” art, “classical” and “popular” music. Breaking with the confines of academic serialism and the decorum of the concert hall, the minimalists forged connections with the

  • Mego

    As the First World arms itself with fax machines, cell phones, and modems, the secret soundtrack of everyday life—the hiss and whine of digital circuitry—has become a source of inspiration for musicians. The core artists of Vienna’s MEGO label—Peter Rehberg, Ramon Bauer, and Christian Fennesz—are among the most intriguing practitioners of the new electronic minimalism. On the label’s first release, Fridge Trax EP, Pita (Rehberg) and General Magic (Bauer and Andi Pieper) manage to find the funk in the hum of kitchen appliances. Pita’s solo outing, “Seven Tons for Free,” follows suit, exploring

  • Mouse on Mars

    For more than forty years, Germany’s industrial heartland has been the center of electronic musical innovation. The first studio for the production of purely electronic music was set up at Cologne’s Northwest German Radio station in 1952, hosting such avant-garde heavyweights as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gyorgy Ligeti, Ernst Krenek, Mauricio Kagel, and Henri Pousseur. Two decades later, the Dusseldorf-based quartet Kraftwerk fabricated a novel pop/dance synthesis of electronic pulses, cheesy keyboard melodies, and deadpan vocal phrases. Such is the illustrious pedigree of the most recent practitioners

  • Panasonic

    What is currently being marketed as “electronica” represents the music industry’s belated attempt to capitalize on a moribund rave culture and its techno-hippie aesthetic. The hype over Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, et al. ignores more significant efforts to extend and outstrip rave’s musical resources: on the one hand, vanguard junglists like Plug and Squarepusher stutter and fracture techno’s relentless 4/4 throb to create music of dizzying rhythmic complexity. On the other hand, electronica outfits (e.g., Oval, Autechre, Microstoria) abstract techno’s melodic and harmonic material with an

  • Sub Rosa

    “We are not, strictly speaking, a music label,” says Guy Marc Hinant of SUB ROSA, the Belgian record company he heads with Frédéric Walheer. Though, over the past decade, Sub Rosa has given us some of the most extraordinary music of the late twentieth century, the label embraces what John Cage called “the entire field of sound”—tones, voices, and noises in all their multiplicity and heterogeneity. It has put out collections of Yiddish and Judeo-Spanish songs, anticolonialist hip hop from Greenland, and field recordings of Venezuelan shamans. One series presents work by classical composers such