Sound Art Resources

Projects in Sound Art - Cooper Union - LP ManipulationFrom 2007 – 2020 this was the online syllabus for my Projects in Sound Art class at Cooper Union Art School in NYC. The current syllabus is no longer online, but I figured I’d continue to share this as a list of Sound Art resources instead.

Topic: Listening as a Creative Practice

“Hearing is something that happens to us because we have ears – it is our primary sense organ. Listening is something we develop and cultivate our whole life, and maybe all of our lifetimes. Listening is what creates culture. Listening is very diverse and takes many forms as cultures take many forms.”
Pauline Oliveros (from her book Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice)

  • Pauline Oliveros began developing her Deep Listening practice in response to the political trauma of the late 1960’s. She retreated from performing electronic music and concentrated on extended drone technique, leading to a women-only improv and bodywork group and later publication of her Sonic Meditation listening exercises. She used the subjective experience of listening as an inclusive tool of social engagement and healing. Some more details here.

    “Deep Listening is listening in every possible way to everything possible to hear no matter what you are doing. Such intense listening includes the sounds of daily life, of nature, or one’s own thoughts as well as musical sounds. Deep Listening represents a heightened state of awareness and connects to all that there is. As a composer I make my music through Deep Listening”

  • Listening as Activism: The Sonic Meditations of Pauline Oliveros (The New Yorker magazine)
  • Composer Max Neuhaus stamped the word LISTEN on the hands of his audience and took them for a sound walking tour of the Lower East side of Manhattan in 1966. It was a pivotal moment in his transformation from Composer to Sound Artist.
  • “The Three Listening Modes”, from Audio-Vision by Michel Chion

Topic: Toward a Definition of Sound Art

Topic: Sound Recording’s Precedents and Modern Methods

  • Some excerpts from Charles Grivel’s essay “The Phonograph’s Horned Mouth” in the book Wireless Imagination:La Mort et le coquillage” (” Death and the Seashell”)The parable relates the following: a musician listens to the recorded voice of his deceased friends; he’s a very melancholy man; the refinement of his musical ear and his grief compel him to seek the means to hear directly, without phonography and without recording, the voices of his dear departed. “What the mouth of a seashell says”: this phrase opens up horizons for him in this regard. His idea is to write down at the piano, without intermediary, to reproduce with his hands and with musical notation, from breath to art, with and without a machine, this primordial, definitive, funereal sound. Nerval seized the miraculous shell from me and ran to the piano. For a long time he tried to write down its divine sexual clamor. At two o’ clock in the morning, he finally gave up. The room was strewn with blackened, torn sheets of paper. “You see, you see,” he said to me, “I can’t even transcribe the chorus under dictation!.. . ”
    He went back to his armchair, listening, despite my efforts, to the venomous paean. Around four o’ clock, he started to tremble. I begged him to get some rest. He shook his head, and seemed to lean over an invisible abyss. At half past five, he fell, forehead on the marble of the hearth: dead. The seashell broke into a thousand little pieces.
  • See the excellent Acoustics and Vibration Animations – Dan Russell, Grad. Prog. Acoustics, Penn Stat
  • Useful trivia: The MP3 compression system was developed at Fraunhofer IIS in Germany. They used the acapella version of Susanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” to tune the algorithm (see Vega’s blog post, ). A human voice is complex, but it’s a lot simpler than a full band, and much easier to compress. Here is an analysis of the sonic mangling of data-compression (with bird-songs and pretty graphs).
  • stereo mic techniques pages from “The New Stereo Soundbook”, Ron Streicher and F. Alton Everest
  • stereo hearing and psychoacoustics pages from “The New Stereo Soundbook”
  • Aaron Ximm, AKA “Quiet American” has an amazing links page that provides thorough advice on field-recording, from history to gear recommendations.
  • My recorder recommendations in case you are looking to buy a portable recorder or microphones
  • “Sound and Hearing: An Introduction” and frequency chart from Audio in Media , Stanley R. Alten
  • “Microphone Types” from Sound Engineering Explained, M. Talbot-Smith
  • “Mic Patterns and Audio Connectors” from Film Production Technique, Bruce Mamer
  • Here is an online frequency chart with other useful information

Topic: Resonance & Contact Mics

  • John Cage’s Cartridge Music (1960)
  • Bill Fontana’s Harmonic Bridge at Tate Modern
  • The Music of Sound blog has a great list of favorite contact mic field recordists, in particular Toyisha Tsunoda.
  • Rob Duarte’s “MOVEMENT” … a machine performance that documents the activities of a heap of small contraptions and mundane mechanical movements
  • Tomomi Adachi’s Tomoring instruments made of springs and other objects, amplified by contact mics.
  • Steven Conner’s recorded essay about Resonance.
  • Camille Norment’s Rapture installation
  • John Grzinich’s Transduction Twentyfifteen
  • Brenda Hutchinson’s Long Tube
  • Harry Bertioa’s Sonambient sculptures, as played by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
  • “The Queen of the South” by Alvin Lucier
  • Tactile transducers (AKA “bass shakers” or “aural exciters” or “contact speakers”) are designed to vibrate surfaces instead of air. Parts Express sells a wide variety of them. You can also use a piezo buzzer element and a small audio transformer to turn lightweight rigid surfaces into speakers. (See book Handmade Electronic Music by Nic Collins)
  • German artist Markus Kison used tactile transducers to hide sound in a metal railing overlooking a river in Dresden. In “Touched Echo”, listeners put their elbows on the railing and cover their ears. The sound conducts through their bones, revealing aural artifacts of the WWII bombing of Dresden.
  • “Wavetable” by veteran sound and media artist Liz Phillips
  • A very geeky Chladni plate Youtube video from Edwin Wise, also featured in MAKE Magazine.
  • In this extremely corny PBS video, you can see an alligator rippling the surface of water using only its low voice.
  • Richard Lerman’s “Travelon Gamelon” bicycle piece and his guide for contact-mic construction
  • David Dunn shows how to build a hydrophone, tubular contact mic, and ultrasonic “probe mic” in this pdf
  • Open Music Labs has a very helpful page about piezo products (including the discs commonly used for contact mics.)
  • In his “Rainforest” series, David Tudor attached contact mics to suspended objects to created resonant feedback loops.
  • Annea Lockwood did a performance in 1966 called Glass World where she played resonant glass objects with fingers, mallets, etc.
  • Kabir Carter‘s performances activate acoustic space using simple microphone feedback to make complex aural gestures.

Topic: Radio Art

Topic: Synesthesia (Sound to / from Light)

  • “Imagine radio that, instead of numbing us to sounds, strengthens our imagination and creativity; instead of manipulating us into faster work and more purchasing, it inspires us to invent…instead of silencing us, it encourages us to sing or to speak, to make radio ourselves.”
    —- Hildegaard Westerkamp
  • Transmission Arts Archive, courtesy of Wave Farm
  • Kunstradio (Austria) has a great Radio Art manifesto.
  • is the home of the Radia Network, a worldwide collective of community radio stations dedicated to radio art.
  • Room-sized inductive loops (like Christina Kubisch used) are built into some movie theaters and public places to assist people with hearing aids. Most hearing aids have a “t-coil” or “telecoil” mode that disables the onboard microphone and enables a tiny inductive listener that can tune-in to the electromagnetic signal from a loop embedded in the walls. You can make your own with a normal audio amplifier and long wires.
  • Read about the Local Community Radio act of 2010 (pitchfork) which may help bring more low-power FM stations to the dial.
  • Online “microcasting” instructions (both printed and video tutorials) from
  • Many small FM transmitters (for cars) can be hacked to increase their meager range. The simplest hack involves simply lengthening the antenna, but some transmitters have deeper possibilities: Here are instructions for an old Belkin Tunecast II and Tunecast III). I wrote my own FM transmitter hacking summary.
  • The cheap & tiny Raspberry Pi computer can be used as an FM transmitter. The only part you need to add is an antenna! It has no FM hardware, but one of the high-speed internal clocks can be re-programmed to generate a standard FM stereo signal that broadcasts farther than a hacked MP3 transmitter. Flash the downloaded disc image to an SD card, add audio files, select a frequency with a text file, and you’re done. Amazing! (As far as I know, there is no way to support a live input. It can only transmit pre-recorded audio files.)
  • Radio history & theory excerpts from episode 205 of the early 1990’s TV documentary series The Secret Life of Machines (episodes online at
  • Radio Basics (how to build a simple AM radio & limited transmitter, from
  • Marshall Mcluhan’s LP recording version of “The Medium is the Massage” (ubuweb)
  • On the subject of the latent ideology embedded in visual media, check out John Berger’s 1972 BBC TV series “Ways of Seeing” (YouTube clip or VHS tapes (!) in NYU Bobst library). There’s also a book version.
  • If you’re interested in tinkering with radio or other electromagnetic phenomena, find a copy of this out-of-print book:
    “Exploring Light, Radio & Sound Energy with projects” by Calvin R. Graf
    (Alvin Lucier used it to build receiving equipment for his “Sferics” piece; recordings of “natural” low frequency radio signals emanating from the Earth itself.)
  • The Conet Project is a 4CD anthology of shortwave “Numbers Stations”, undocumented international radio broadcasts that are widely believed to be messages from espionage organizations like the CIA, MI6, and Mossad. All tracks can be (legally) downloaded here.
  • Some excerpts from Charles Grivel’s essay “The Phonograph’s Horned Mouth” in the book Wireless Imagination:The connection between sound and inscription inaugurated by phonography, or rather, the phonautograph that preceded it, took on poetic ramifications for Rainer Maria Rilke in his 1919 essay Primal Sound. In this essay he first recounts a childhood classroom project of constructing a crude phonograph, and then, some fifteen years later in his study, seeing out of the corner of his eye a jagged line much like that inscribed by the phonograph. The line was that of the coronal suture atop a skull he had acquired for contemplative purposes. If the line inscribed by a phonograph could be retraced to return the voice/sound that had created it, what sound would be returned from the coronal suture or, for that matter, any line along any contour in the visible world? Once this idea is taken out of the ridiculous it works very nicely on the sublime to suggest ways to proceed aurally, with sonic/semiotic animation, amid the spatialization of not merely the visual world but the conceptual world as well…
  • Derek Holzer’s A Brief History of Optical Synthesis is not brief. It’s an amazingly thorough chronology of light-to-sound synthesizer technology. (He performs improv sets called TONEWHEELS where he generates sound and light by shining lamps through spinning patterned discs.)
  • Michael Vorfeld’s Lightbulb Music is a performace piece based on a table full of light bulbs
  • The Cyborg Foundation aims to help people become cyborgs. Their founders built the eyeborg which translates colors to audible frequencies via a webcam and skull implant.
  • How to build a Simple Laser Communicator (from
  • “Cloud Music” by Bob Diamond, Robert Watts and David Behrman, 1974. A set of synthesizer tones controlled by a video camera pointed at passing clouds.
  • The Voyager probes launched by NASA in 1977 contained gold records encoded with images and sounds, along with diagrams to explain how to decode them.
  • It’s easy to make “light-listeners” like the one Steven Vitiello used in “light-readings”. Consult this week’s chapter from Handmade Electronic Music for a method that uses a photoresistor, or use the solar cell from a cheap solar calculator, or buy super-tiny solar cells like these: Vishay BPW34 Silicon Photo-diode. (Larger cells are more sensitive)
  • Alessandro had a great blog called (now gone, so try his flickr stream or the wayback machine.) I captured a pdf of his post describing a circuit that amplifies the photo-diode above so it can directly drive a small speaker.
  • The Texas Instruments TSL230 Light-To-Frequency Sensor converts light level to an audible square wave signal in one step without any extra components. (More light = higher pitch)
  • Eric Archer makes “Sound Cameras”: old 8mm film cameras with built-in light-listeners and headphone amps. (Plenty of audio samples on his page.)
  • Russian artist Andrey Smirnov explores the popular eavesdropping technique of reflecting laser light off windows to hear the conversations inside.
  • The Ruben’s Tube (video, wikipedia) traces audio waveforms with jets of flame, due to standing-wave patterns within a long tube.
  • 20 years before the invention of the phonograph, sound was inscribed visually onto paper with a device called the phonautograph. One of these inscriptions was converted back into sound (mp3 link) in 2008 via digital imaging and custom software. One of the collaborators in that project, Patrick Feaster, maintains his own site and co-founded which seeks to apply their techniques to other collections of historical recordings.
  • The Brainport is an experimental device that provides a limited “sight” to blind individuals via a head-mounted camera and a grid of electrodes worn on the tongue. It’s a simple conversion of visual pixels into tactile sensations but the brain quickly adapts, creating real “images” in the mind of the wearer. (video here)

Topic: Synthesis and Circuits

  • BENT Fest was a yearly circuit-bending festival from 2006-2009.
  • Tristan Perich is a musician who programs microcontrollers to produce “1-bit music”. One of his releases is a circuit inside a CD case. It produces an album-length composition via the included headphone jack.
  • Sonic Arts Union LP on UbuWeb
  • Gordon Mumma and his “cybersonic” devices (ubuweb tracks) ff
  • David Tudor’s diagram for Rainforest IV, and an extensive interview.
  • Michel Waisvisz’s Cracklebox (1975) was a chaotic DIY noise machine, recently re-issued.
  • I use circuit-bent Buddhist chant-boxes in a series of projects: Witnesses, Witnesses:Scope, Witnesses: Trikaya.
  • Chinese electronic music band FM3 created looping machines (inspired by Buddhist chant-boxes) and released them like albums. FM3 Buddha Machines
  • Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe demonstrates how he uses modular synthesizers in his performances, specifically in relation to voice.
  • We read an excerpt from Handmade Electronic Music by Nic Collins. This is the book you want to get if you’re interested in electronics. It’s the perfect mix of background info and hands-on tutorials. No math!
  • Also check out Hackaday’s Logic Noise series for step-by-step instructions for simple synths (made of CMOS logic chips like the ones Nic Collins writes about.)
  • Beavis Audio Research (offline in 2015. RIP!) DIY stomp-boxes and effects. Check out their excellent guide to CMOS “1-bit” synthesizers (via Wayback Machine), which paraphrases a lot of the info from the Nic Collins book.
  • The Drawdio! A little oscillator circuit that responds to resistive surfaces like pencil lines, streams of water, etc. If you’re experimenting, I recommend this version. It runs on a 9V battery, drives a speaker directly, and uses very few parts.
  • Arduino is an inexpensive platform for “physical computing” or “creative coding” (Meaning: “You can make physical objects do fun things via small computer programs, and you don’t have to be an expert.”) It’s the defacto standard for creating interactive objects or interfacing real-world objects with computers. There is a massive community online.
  • My printable resistor color code chart for decoding the value of resistors using their colored bands.

Topic: Noise & Music

  • RWM MACBA podcast PROBES: In the late nineteenth century two facts conspired to change the face of music: the collapse of common practice tonality (which overturned the certainties underpinning the world of art music), and the invention of a revolutionary new form of memory, sound recording (which redefined and greatly empowered the world of popular music). A tidal wave of probes and experiments into new musical resources and new organisational practices ploughed through both disciplines, bringing parts of each onto shared terrain before rolling on to underpin a new aesthetics able to follow sound and its manipulations beyond the narrow confines of ‘music’. This series tries analytically to trace and explain these developments, and to show how, and why, both musical and post-musical genres take the forms they do.
  • “The Art of Noise” by Luigi Russolo, 1913 (ubuweb PDF)  and Intonarumori samples (on ubuweb)
  • Script for “Symphony of Sirens” by Arseni Avraamov (WI p. 245-252)
  • Until recently, every New Year’s Eve at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, you could experience something akin to “Symphony of the Sirens” thanks to their chief mechanical engineer and his collection of whistles. Seriously!
  • “The Future of Music: A Credo” by John Cage
  • interview with Christian Marclay and Yasunao Tone from MUSIC magazine
  • Tape Heads (Chapter 9) from Handmade Electronic Music (p. 47-52)
  • Noise In And As Music, 2013 – a book-length anthology of essays about noise and music
  • Arseni Avraamov’s fascinating biography on
  • “Engineering Noise Abatement” from The Soundscape of Modernity by Emily Thompson (p. 144-157)
  • “Histories of Sound, Once Removed” , Douglas Kahn, from Wireless Imagination
    Today we are focusing on what he calls “inscription” but the rest of the article applies too.
  • Varése – “Ionizations” (alternate version on ubuweb)
  • Space Calculated in Seconds by Marc Treib. A book describing the Philips pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (focusing on Poeme Electronique and the work of Le Corbusier, Iannis Xenakis, and Edgard Varése).
  • An in-depth blog entry about Varese and Poeme Electronique.
  • Schaeffer – “Etude Aux Chemins De Fer” AKA “Railroad Study” (excerpt on youtube)
  • Cage – “Williams Mix” (excerpt on media art net)

Topic: The Possibilities of Analog Media

  • RWM MACBA podcast VARIATIONS: The idea of a completely original piece of music is fairly recent. Music was passed on through sound, through generations, even for centuries after the invention of written music. Only in the 14th century did it become standard practice for a composer to sign his name to a piece of music and claim it entirely as his own, giving rise to the cult of the individual composer. But as recording supplanted sheet music in the 20th century, the presence of communal influence became unavoidably obvious once again as composers began to use recordings to make new recordings. We can now hear the presence of more than one voice. And there is a reason why people don’t say they listen to a record – they say that they play a record. From the beginning, recordings have been instruments.
  • Christian Marclay mini-documentary and performance on YouTube and article from Frieze Magazine
  • Maria Chavez getting amazing variation from one record and a DJ mixer at End Tymes Festival in 2012.
  • Walter Kitundu’s instruments that incorporate turntables.
  • Yasunao Tone on Wikipedia
  • Alyce Santoro’s “sonic fabric” (and a related YouTube video that Pierre Schaeffer might enjoy)
  • Laurie Anderson invented the Tape-Bow Violin (with recorded tape in place of horse-hair and a tape-head on the instrument.) Example on ubuweb.
  • Steve Reich’s early tape music (“Come Out”, “It’s Gonna Rain”)
  • Burroughs and Brion Gysin cut-up recordings (ubuweb)
  • John Oswald’s remixed audio book “The Case of Death by Agatha Smith” and “Power”, a 1975 track that combines a charismatic preacher with Led Zeppelin’s “The Wanton Song” (both available on the CD “Plunderphonics 69/96“)
  • Automamusic film by Aura Satz (link to excerpt on The Wire magazine website)
  • William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops consist of tape loops that gradually deteriorated each time they passed the tape head, the unexpected result of Basinski’s attempt to transfer his earlier recordings to digital format. The completion of the recording coincided with the 9/11 attacks, which Basinski witnessed from his rooftop in Brooklyn.

Topic: The Human Voice as a Not-So-Semantic Tool

  • Kurt Schwitters epic Dada sound poem Ursonate (1926, recorded 1932) stands on the shoulders of the Italian and Russian Futurists as well as other Dada contemporaries Hugo Ball and Raoul Hausmann.
  • Speaking of Hugo Ball, here’s squeaky clean 80’s pop star Marie Osmond introducing a TV audience to Hugo Ball’s sound poetry. (They got the costume wrong. It was actually much cooler.)
  • Meredith Monk documentary clip from Four American Composers series (Specifically her discussion of language, her thoughts about “Dolmen Music” as an overheard conversation in another language, archaic community, etc). Another expert in expanded vocal technique is Joan La Barbara
  • Sacred Harp Singing is a participatory religious event powered by sound, focusing inward without an audience. We watched a clip from Kevin Barrans explains Sacred Harp singing in class.
  • Mantras and chants exist in most religious traditions, using the voice as a tool to bring people together, and/or aid meditation. The architecture of religious spaces often intersects with these goals.
  • Tuvan Throat Singing uses unique overtones in the voice to mimic the sounds of nature (wind whistling, birds, crickets, the rhythms of horseback riding). Blind San Francisco blues musician Paul Pena discovered throat singing via a Radio Moscow shortwave broadcast and taught himself the technique. He was invited to Tuva to participate in a throat singing festival, a journey documented in the 1999 film Genghis Blues. YouTube clip.
  • Beatboxing imitates the sounds of electronic percussion. “La Di Da Di” by Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh is an early milestone.
  • Alvin Lucier’s I’m Sitting In A Room uses the human voice to reveal the voice of the room itself.
  • German artist Martin Riches created Talking Machine, a mechanical voice synthesizer with reed organ pipes coupled to wooden resonators. (short youtube demo and its historical ancestor, Wolfgang von Kempelen’s Speaking Machine.)
  • Pictures and sounds of the Bell Labs Voder, debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair, created by Homer Dudley.
  • The “Speech Songs” of computer music pioneer Charles Dodge, created in the Bell Labs speech synthesis lab in the early 1970s. The lab had previously recorded “Daisy Bell” (Bicycle Built For Two) in 1961, the first song performed by a computer. Arthur C. Clarke witnessed this demonstration and wrote it into HAL’s demise in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Paul Lansky’s Artifice: On Ferdinand’s Reflection (1975-76) uses LPC speech synth technology. (Hear more on his site.)
  • Contemporary musicians like Lesley Flanigan explore the relationships between the voice and space via feedback & sine waves.
  • Charmaine Lee uses extended vocal technique, amplification, feedback, and microphones to augment and distort the voice.
  • Deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim has a special definition of voice since she speaks with her hands (ASL) and often uses a speaking interpreter to provide her voice in lectures.
  • Janet Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet presents each voice of a large choir in their own speaker, foregrounding the individual bodies that make up the experience of sound.
  • Contemporary Dutch composer/performer Jaap Blonk works almost exclusively with sound poetry.
  • For some historical background on early speech synthesis, read Dennis Klatt’s 1987 “Review of text-to-speech conversion for English“. There are sound samples from the accompanying record too.
  • The sound boxes of Aeschylus explores the acoustic effects of ancient Greek dramatic masks, possibly triggering a state of catharsis when activated by certain vocal sounds.
  • Composer Carl Stone extends a brief vocal phrase to 15 minutes in his 1986 track Shing Kee, sliding the loop points slowly forward and backward to reveal micro moments.
  • We will explore Steve Reich in our week on analog media. His early tape loops deconstruct speech through hypnotic looping.
  • People Like Us (appropriative collage artist Vicki Bennett) made a gigantic 3-part exploration of vocal noise called Blather: “a journey through all the kinds of sounds that the mouth makes, whether that be for artistic, comedy, practical, mind-altering, religious or work reasons. “

Topic: Acoustic Ecology and Artists Who Primarily Use Field Recordings

  • World Forum for Acoustic Ecology – Check out their journal for a survey of the field.
  • The Handbook for Acoustic Ecology – from Barry Truax
  • “An Intro. to Acoustic Ecology” from Soundscape journal vol 1, Kendall Wrightson
  • “Listening To The City” Handbook from MIT CoLab
    This is a hands-on “toolkit” for using sound in community research and action, designed for city planners, activists, artists, and community groups.
  • “The Industrial Revolution” chapter from “The Soundscape”, R Murray Schafer
  • “Listen” documentary about R. Murray Schafer, from the National Film Board of Canada
  • The World Soundscape Project (“WSP”), Schafer’s 1970’s research group at Simon Frasier University was a foundational force in the field of Acoustic Ecology. We will study it in detail later on in the semester.
  • “On Acoustic Design” is a 20min audio essay about noise pollution from R Murray Schafer’s 1973 LP titled “Vancouver Soundscape” (now available on CD)
  • Bernie Krause TED talk about The Voice of the Natural World, especially his use of recordings to document the effects of selective logging.
  • “Humphrey:The Rescue” chapter from “Notes from the Wild”, Bernie Krause
  • “The Niche Hypothesis: How Animals Taught Us To Dance and Sing”, Bernie Krause
  • “Sabine After Symphony Hall” from The Soundscape of Modernity by Emily Thompson (p. 62-69)
  • Listening to Disaster: Our Relationship to Sound in Danger, a wonderful blog post from Maile Colbert –full of field interviews with artists and acoustic ecologists such as Marc Behrens, Andrea Polli, Bernie Krause, and Peter Cusack–as well as a podcast produced by Eric Leonardson, Director of the World Listening Project. I’m particularly impressed by the Bernie Krause before/after recordings.
  • Bernie Krause interview from Electronic Musician magazine – with lots of practical info about field recording
  • Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist who founded the One Square Inch landmark inside Olympic National Park, dedicated to focusing attention on noise pollution.
  • David Dunn has been recording, composing, and writing about Acoustic Ecology for years. His contact mic recordings of bark beetles attacking pine trees are available on the CD “The Sound of Light in Trees”. He describes how to make these mics in this pdf.
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Field Recording (FACT Mag)
  • Interview with Steven Feld from “In The Field” anthology
  • Chris Watson – TV interview (10min) & tracks from “Outside the Circle of Fire” CD. (raw recordings representing place…phonography)
  • Spanish field recordist Francisco Lopez: Listen to La Selva (34-37min). Essay about it here.

    “The move away from the representational and documentative does not essentially depend on transformation of sounds but fundamentally on the listening mode we carry out…”

  • I.M. Rawes has recorded an enormous catalog of the sounds of London. The London Sound Survey includes sound maps, archives, and historical data. (Another important sound-map of field recordings is Radio Aporee, organized by Udo Noll.)
  • Locus Sonus Sound Map is a collection of worldwide open mics, live-streaming the sounds
  • Leah Barclay’s Biosphere Soundscapes project is designed to inspire communities across the world to listen to the environment and explore the value of sound as a measure for environmental health in UNESCO biosphere reserves.
  • Through focused listening and recording, Jana Winderen has been

    “… exploring coral reefs in the Caribbean and in the Pacific with hydrophones. I am also experimenting with different types of microphones to collect sounds which are not obviously recognizable, but give room for broader, more imaginative readings or sounds that are unreachable for the human senses, such as ultrasound. I use these sounds as source material for composition in a live environment or to create immersive installations, also for film, dance, radio, CD, cassette and vinyl productions.”

  • Interview with Jana Winderen
  • Jana Winderen in a conversation with Steven Conner (whose essays we have read) and Garret Keizer on BBC radio’s The Forum in 2015, discussing noise in society, personal psychology, and art.
  • Hildegard Westerkamp’s “Kits Beach Soundwalk” (She acknowledges herself “in the frame” of her recordings, processes them in the studio, celebrates the fluidity of meaning as contexts shift)
  • Interview with Hildegard Westerkamp from “In The Field” anthology
  • Sounding Places with Hildegard Westerkamp (Ph.D Dissertation by Andra McCartney) – Interviews and media clips relating to this original WSP member and contemporary composer.
  • Audio Interview with Hildegard Westerkamp – by Ned Bouhalassa
  • Framework Radio: Weekly sound art and field recording radio show (+ podcast) This one is a good example of the breadth of field-recording based composition (ie not just the sounds of animals.)
  • Christopher DeLaurenti: Towards Activist Sound (The Wire magazine):

    “Unlike chants at sporting events, every echoing group of voices has its own timbre, spatial location, and variably passionate presence. What we hear is for us, not someone’s corporation. Beyond the bland term “collective listening,” you’re hearing an aural model of governing consensus and perhaps the germinal sound of an unselfish social network.”

  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s art practice revolves around sound recordings as evidence and the politics of listening. A great lecture from 2015 focuses on “forensic listening”.
  • Ultra-Red is a collective dedicated to audio art and political engagement. They produce Militant Sound Investigations where listening and recording become tools for social struggle:

    Despite the longing for technology to provide a disinterested position, the microphone does not stand apart from the struggle and represent it dispassionately. Rather, it and the listening it organizes is a part of the production of the conditions of struggle. Listening is a site for the organization of politics. To help conceptualize this process, the formulation can be written: sound field + organizing = soundscape.

Topic: Soundwalking Practice

  • Andrea Williams has led soundwalks based on concepts of acoustic ecology and Deep Listening in New York City, San Francisco, and also in people’s dreams in the collaborative project called SleepWalks. She also contributed to this excellent survey of contemporary soundwalk practice, What is a Sound walk?
  • Teri Rueb’s Fens is an app-based sound walk in a Boston park, with field recordings by Ernst Karel.
    “The piece is composed mainly from location recordings made in the Back Bay Fens in different seasons, different weather, at different times of day and night. Inspired by Olmsted’s fascination with parks as confluences of natural and social processes, the piece takes up landscape as a site of interaction between human and non-human elements evoked through sound.”
  • Wikipedia: binaural recording
  • My guide to building low-noise binaural mics using Primo EM172 capsules
  • Soundwalk Collective’s Sacred Spaces installation at Rubin Museum (2016/2017)

Topic: Interactivity and Indeterminacy

  • MIDI Sprout is a device that translates minute changes in electrical conductivity in plant leaves into musical notes. The device is expensive but the design files are open source and inexpensive clones exist.
  • WolframTones is a website demonstrating a few ways of translating the activity of cellular automata into “music”.
  • Mileece creates participatory performances where plants generate sounds via electrodes that monitor their electrical activity.
  • Alvin Lucier “Music for Solo Performer” video (from “OHM+” DVD or seek to 57:40 in this ubuweb video)
  • Lucky Dragons Daylay is an outdoor installation that records 12 hours of audio and plays it back over the next 12 hours, time-shifting the aural environment from day to night.

Topic: Drone, Minimalism, and the Dream House

  • “1. Notes on the Continuous Periodic Composite Sound Waveform Environment…” (p 5-16) from Selected Writings by Lamonte Young and Marian Zazeela (previously available on ubuweb but apparently not any more)
  • The Dream House is located at 275 Church Street between Franklin St & White St
    • Ring the buzzer for MELA Foundation / Dream House
    • $10 charge for admission
    • You will need to remove your shoes, so wear socks. Don’t worry if your feet stink, there will be incense burning.
  • If you’re interested in the Dream House math, here’s a dense quote from the MELA Foundation: Young’s sound environment is composed of frequencies tuned to the harmonic series between 288 and 224, utilizing numbers with factors of only 9, or those primes or octave transpositions of smaller primes that fall within this range. The interval 288/256 reduces to a 9/8 interval as does the interval 252/224. Thirty-two frequencies satisfy the above definition, of which seventeen fall within the range of the upper, and fourteen fall within the range of the lower of these two symmetrical 9/8 intervals. Young has arranged these thirty-one frequencies in a unique constellation, symmetrical above and below the thirty-second frequency, the center harmonic 254 (the prime 127 x 2).
  • Drone music pioneer Phil Niblock “Niblock constructs big 24-track digitally-processed monolithic microtonal drones. The result is sound without melody or rhythm. Movement is slow, geologically slow. Changes are almost imperceptible, and his music has a tendency of creeping up on you.” (from his website)
  • Maryanne Amacher made very loud architectural sound installations that exploited psychoacoustic effects to create what she called “third ear sounds” in the listener’s brain. (See NewMusicBox interview.) She explored audio telepresence in the 1960s with her “City Links” project that brought 5 live microphone feeds into one space using high-quality telephone links. (also see “Radio Net” (1977) by Max Neuhaus, Soundbridge (1987) by Bill Fontana.)
  • On the subject of microtonal tuning systems, check out the delightful music of Harry Partch. He spent his early years as a hobo and his later years as an eccentric musician, composer, and instrument builder. A good intro is the track “The Instruments of Harry Partch” on the “Enclosures 7” DVD where he explains and demonstrates several of his instruments. Also see the 2002 documentary “The Outsider: The Story of Harry Partch” (ubuweb).
  • “In Search of Lost Sounds” from Slate Magazine is a fascinating article about the voicing of modern pianos compared to the instruments that were used in the 19th century by well-known composers. (sound samples included)

Links and Resources

Libraries and Archives

  • UbuWeb
    An amazing archive of streaming / downloadable media art, best described by its curator Kenneth Goldsmith: “But by the time you read this, UbuWeb may be gone. Cobbled together, operating on no money and an all-volunteer staff, UbuWeb has become the unlikely definitive source for all things avant-garde on the internet. Never meant to be a permanent archive, Ubu could vanish for any number of reasons: our ISP pulls the plug, our university support dries up, or we simply grow tired of it. Acquisition by a larger entity is impossible: nothing is for sale. We don’t touch money. In fact, what we host has never made money. Instead, the site is filled with the detritus and ephemera of great artists”
  • Monoskop
    A wiki for collaborative studies of the arts, media and humanities. It has an amazing summary of Sound Art resources, including some rare downloadable media.
  • SONM Archives
    An archive of the CDs, cassettes, vinyl and books collected by sound artist and performer Francisco Lopez. (You need to register to get free streaming access)
  • Her Noise
    An archive that brings together women artists who use sound as a medium. Most of the content is from a 2005 exhibit in London. Be sure to check out the video interviews.
  • Audible Women
    A listing of contemporary women artists who work with sound, created by Australian sound artist Gail Priest.
  • Radio Papesse
    An online audio archive devoted to contemporary art; it is a place for the documentation and the articulation of a critical discourse around the visual arts and at the same time it is a radio project dedicated to sound art production and distribution.
  • Radio MACBA
    An internet radio station founded at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona in 2006. Initially an extension of the museum’s exhibitions, it has developed into a platform for sonic art programming. They produce long-form audio essays (like Variations, an excellent history of sonic appropriation) as well as artist interviews.
    A multi-platform archive of sonic innovators. The project began as a web-based archive of the history of female, trans and non-binary artists working with the technologies of sound, now expanded to include live events.
  • Audio Arts Archive
    In 1973 William Furlong and Barry Barker established Audio Arts as a cassette-based audio magazine. It provided a dedicated space for artists and art-world professionals to speak about their work in a free and unmediated way, often in direct proximity of their creations.
  • Women’s Audio Archive
    A series of recordings from 1984-1990, taped by artist Marysia Lewandowska. These recordings document public events, seminars, talks, conferences, and private conversations with Judy Chicago, Mary Kelly, Barbara Kruger, Yvonne Rainer, etc. This 2017 piece from Radio MACBA contains excerpts from the archive with contemporary commentary by Lewandowska herself.

Sound Maps

  • The London Sound Survey
    A collection of creative-commons licensed field-recordings from London, organized by Ian Rawes
  • Soundcities
    A sound map platform created by UK artist Stanza.
  • Radio Aporee Maps
    A flexible global sound mapping platform created by Udo Noll. It’s really easy to upload your own sounds and/or make your own customized maps.
  • Locus Sonus Live Map
    A live-streaming sound map from a French research group. Check out some of their other projects here.
  • Sound cities
    A sound map of user-contributed field recordings with a twist: Each uploaded sound is paired with a remixed “memory” version.

Radio, Podcasts & Record Labels

  • Framework Radio
    Weekly radio show (+ podcast) dedicated to field recording, where you can hear long-form work and excerpts, sometimes curated thematically. A great cross-section of work from all over the globe. (Submissions accepted.)
  • Sound Matters podcast
    Sound Matters investigates our noisy cosmos, how we listen to sounds, the stories we tell about them, and all the ideas, inventions, discoveries, possibilities and ideas that live in the realm of the audible.
  • Phantom Power podcast
    A podcast on the sonic arts and humanities. Interviews with contemporary scholars and artists, topical sound essays. Good stuff!
  • Sonic Field Radio podcast
    Podcast series from Sonic Field, a community driven, inter-disciplinary vault for research on sound in multiple angles, openly exploring arts, sciences and philosophies of the paradigm we use to call sound.
  • The Dominant Eye podcast
    Responding to the overload of visual media dominating our contemporary senses, Siân Lyn Hutchings and The Noematic Collective will develop a series of interconnected projects that foreground the use of sonic interpretation on site: a series of live weekly podcasts, a tailored programme of sonic workshops and, installed permanently in the Bold Tendencies Auditorium, a sonic library of the site’s ongoing and evolving aural history.
  • Earlid
    An online gallery of evolving exhibits of sound art. It’s like a museum. It’s also like a radio program with occasional practitioner interviews transformed by Earlid’s radiophilic curator, Joan Schuman.
    An international collective of radio artists. They take turns producing a 28 minute show each week. (info on Wikipedia, listen on
  • Radio MACBA
    An internet radio station founded at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona in 2006. Initially an extension of the museum’s exhibitions, it has developed into a platform for sonic art programming. They produce long-form audio essays (like Variations, an excellent history of sonic appropriation) as well as artist interviews.
  • Wave Farm (WGXC)
    An upstate NY community FM station & arts organization. (Check out their Saturday schedule for the avant-garde stuff.)
  • Resonance FM
    A London FM station dedicated to radio art
  • Radius
    An experimental radio broadcast platform located in Chicago, IL that features a new project monthly with statements by artists who use radio as a primary element in their work. Radius provides artists with live and experimental formats in radio programming.
  • Clocktower Radio
    Founded in 1972 in Lower Manhattan by MoMA PS1 Founder Alanna Heiss, Clocktower is the oldest alternative art project in New York, and its radio station, Clocktower Radio, was founded in 2003 as one of the first all-art online museum radio stations in the world.
  • Kunstradio (Austria)
    A weekly program on Oesterreich 1 (the cultural channel of Austrian National Radio). Founded in 1987 as a space for radio art – i.e. an art that reflects the radio medium itself.
  • WFMU
    OK it’s not really sound art, but WFMU is an amazing local freeform radio station
  • NTS Radio
    An online freeform radio station with a studio in London but contributors from around the world. (Like WFMU but international!)
  • Sonic Terrain
    A free net.label dedicated to field recording (now transformed into Sonic Field below)
  • Touch Music
    Publisher of music and other things. (including Chris Watson’s field-recordings)
  • Gruenrekorder
    Prolific record label dedicated to field recording releases
  • and/OAR
    “environmental recordings and more”
  • LOM
    Record label in Slovakia run by field-recordist Jonas Gruska (also sells interesting microphones)
  • Very Quiet Records
    “The idea is simple. We release recordings of quiet places or situations from sound artists and field recordists from around the world.”
  • Artkillart
    Artkillart is a label based in Paris and Berlin, created in 2007. Its purpose is to promote experimental audiovisual and sound art. In reaction to dematerialized music, the artists of the label refocus on material objects.

Calendars & Interesting Links

  • Everyday Listening
    collects inspiring and remarkable sound art and creative sound design projects, installations, etc
  • Create Digital Music
    CDM is generally focused on the tools of electronic music but it’s worth a look for sound art too
  • Rhizome
    It’s the place to go for net art and new media

Magazines, Criticism, Interviews & Essays

  • The Wire
    A UK avant-garde music magazine that covers sound art too
  • Ear Room
    Great interviews with contemporary sound artists
    An informal space maintained by Hannah Kemp-Welch, dedicated to sound, and its creative and artistic uses
  • Sounding Out
    A scholarly blog that analyzes sound’s role in constructing social difference, identity & power
  • Sonic Field
    As the result of merging David Vélez’s “The Field Reporter” and Miguel Isaza’s “Sonic Terrain” (created along with Nathan Moody) and “infinite grain”, this site arises as a community driven, inter-disciplinary vault for research on sound in multiple angles, openly exploring arts, sciences and philosophies of the paradigm we use to call sound.
  • Reflections on Process in Sound is a free online journal with the aim to provide a forum where artists can engage in discussions about how they create the work they do, what their practices are influenced by and how their ideas manifest themselves within the final artwork. In short, it puts the spotlight onto process in sound arts practice, from the practitioner’s point of view.

Field-Recording & Sound Experimentation Blogs

Forums / Email Lists / Facebook Groups

Books: Sound In Context

  • Audio-Vision by Michel Chion (1994)
    This book deconstructs the image/sound relationships in cinema, with one foot in the theories of Musique Concrete pioneer Pierre Schaeffer. Intended for film studies but a pretty amazing read for anybody working with sound.
  • The Sound Studies Reader edited by Jonathan Sterne (2012)
    This is a collection of essays that situate sound and listening in the academic context of social science, compiled by my absolute favorite public academic. (Also see Sterne’s excellent books The Audible Past and MP3: The Meaning of a Format. His prose is as generous and comprehendable as his theories are rigorous.)
  • Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music edited by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner (2004)
    This collection of essays by artists, composers and theorists traces the genealogy of the issues that surround avant-garde music (and by extension sound art).
  • On Listening edited by Cathy Lane and Angus Carlyle (2013)
    For this book Lane and Carlyle commissioned 40 short essays about listening from experts in fields like art, anthropology, science & activism.
  • The Soundscape of Modernity by Emily Thompson (2002)
    Thompson reflects on the transformation of the culture of listening as architecture and interior acoustics changed throughout the 20th century.
  • Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds is an “alphabetical sourcebook of eighty sonic/auditory effects” compiled by Centre for Research on Sonic Space and the Urban Environment (CRESSON) in Grenoble, France. Their accounts of sonic effects such as echo, anticipation, vibrato, and wha-wha integrate information about the objective physical spaces in which sounds occur with cultural contexts and individual auditory experience.
  • Errant Bodies Press has been developing publishing projects since 1995. Since this time, it has been dedicated to supporting diverse discourses and projects in the fields of sonic and spatial practices, auditory culture and performativity, experimental writing and political thought. Errant Bodies further aims to consider the specifics of location, media, and modes of address, and the co-productive narratives generated from cultural work and its place, through site-based research, collective actions, and collaborative projects.

Books: Autobiographies, Manifestos, Interviews, Catalogs

  • In the Field edited by Cathy Lane and Angus Carlyle (2013)
    Interviews with contemporary sound artists, field-recordists, and experimental musicians. It’s an inspiring resource for understanding how other artists approach their practice and connect to others within and outside their fields.
  • Pink Noises : Women On Electronic Music And Sound edited by Tara Rodgers (2010)
    Interviews with women DJs, artists and musicians about their practice. It’s an extension of the now-defunct, a 2000-era website dedicated to making electronic music more accessible for women and girls.
  • The Soundscape by R. Murray Schafer (1977)
    From the Canadian Acoustic Ecology pioneer who coined the term “soundscape”. This book changed the way people listen to natural and built environments.
  • Reflections by Alvin Lucier (1995)
    Interviews, scores, and writings from one of the smartest and most accessible American composers of experimental music and sound
  • Silence by John Cage (1961)
    Essays & lectures to contextualize Cage’s music and philosophy. Like his sound work, many of the texts are structured via chance operations.
  • SFMoMA Soundtracks (2017)
    Thorough online exhibition catalog featuring the work of Guy Ben Ner, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, Paul DeMarinis, Brian Eno, Bill Fontana, Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon, Chris Kallmyer and Mark Allen, Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader, Ragnar Kjartansson, Christina Kubisch, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Amor Muñoz, Camille Norment, O Grivo, Susan Philipsz, Amalia Pica, Anri Sala, Sergei Tcherepnin, Richard T. Walker, & Lyota Yagi.

Books: Histories of Sound Art

  • Earth Sound Earth Signal by Douglas Kahn (2013)
    A study of energies in aesthetics and the arts, from the birth of modern communications in the nineteenth century to the global transmissions of the present day. Kahn Evokes the Aeolian sphere music that Henry David Thoreau heard blowing along telegraph lines and the Aelectrosonic sounds of natural radio that Thomas Watson heard through the first telephone; he then traces the histories of science, media, music, and the arts to the 1960s and beyond.
  • Noise Water Meat by Douglas Kahn (2001)
    This wide-ranging book traces the (mostly) unwritten history of sound-making and aurality as it intertwines with the dominant movements in 20th century art.
  • Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art by Brandon LaBelle (2007)
    One history of sound art, largely concerned with the relationship between sound and place. LaBelle argues that sound is a relational actor: defining and violating territories, constructing and challenging identity.
  • In The Blink Of An Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art by Seth Kim-Cohen (2009)
    Kim-Cohen asks why writing about sound art has tended towards phenomenology. He cites the ascendancy of conceptualism in visual art decades ago and proposes a revision of the young history of sound art and a refocusing of attention on the “non-cochlear” qualities of current and future sonic practice.

Books: How To Make Things

  • Handmade Electronic Music by Nic Collins (2006, 2009)
    The only book that blends audio electronics tutorials with historical context and a DVD featuring examples of contemporary artists who build their own gear. Go buy it now! (this link points to the first edition. If possible try to get the newer edition from 2009)

NYC Venues & Organizations

  • Experimental Intermedia
    Performance space run by composer Phil Niblock
  • Harvestworks
    A center for digital arts, sound and music. They have workshops, performances, residencies, etc.
  • Hans Tammen
    A composer/performer/teacher. He is involved in multiple ensembles, so his email list often alerts me to things happening around town that I would otherwise miss.
  • Fridman Gallery
    Gallery that represents artists in a variety of media, but also puts on amazing live shows. Get on their list ASAP!
  • Issue Project Room
    A great venue for performance-based projects in music, sound, dance, and more
  • Blank Forms
    A group that organizes avant-garde performances around NYC. Go to their shows!
  • The Silent Barn
    A volunteer-run DIY space that books a wide variety of performance-based work. (They lost their space in spring 2018 but will hopefully continue in other ways.)
  • Flux Factory
    An incubator for experimentation with collaborative processes showcased in Flux’s 1400 sq ft gallery, which hosts over 75 annual multidisciplinary events – all Flux events are free and artists are compensated for their work. Flux provides affordable space to emerging Artists-in-Residence.
  • Knockdown Center
    Art and performance space dedicated to cross-disciplinary projects and collaborations.
  • Roulette
    A pretty big venue that mostly books music and dance
  • The Stone
    An artist-run performance space for experimental music
  • National Sawdust
    An artist-led, non-profit performance space.
  • The Kitchen
    One of NYC’s oldest non-profit spaces dedicated to multidisciplinary performance and art
  • Eyebeam
    A major center for art and technology, sometimes sound-related.

Residencies and Exhibition Opportunities

(This isn’t an exhaustive list. Note that some residencies aren’t available to students.)

  • RESartis
    A worldwide network of artist residencies.
  • Sound And Music (Opportunities)
    This UK arts organization mostly supports local composers but they have a database of arts opportunities that are often global.
  • Binaura/Nodar
    A sound art residency in rural Portugal
  • MoKS
    An arts organization and residency program situated in a small town in southern Estonia (typically open to individual artists but only doing groups in 2015)
  • Q-O2
    A residency program in Brussels, focusing on improvised music and sound art. Be sure to check out their publications too, which are mostly downloadable.
  • Sonoscopia
    A collective in Porto, Portugal that offers residencies to folks exploring electro-acoustic music and sound art.
  • Wikipedia’s List of Sound Art Organizations and Festivals

Other Peoples Links