Acoustic Art Forms in the Age of Recordability

Gerald Fiebig
  • Organised Sound, July 2015, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/s1355771815000084

How the invention of sound recording changed the status of music for good

What is it about?

For many centuries, writing notes had been the only way of storing music outside people's brains and bodies. The invention of sound recording changed this: now it is possible to record music directly, without the need for writing scores. But recording technology also made it possible to record any other sound and create artworks from it - works that we know today as sound art or radio art. Therefore, recording technology created a number of acoustic art forms that are related to music, but neither a subset of music nor superior to it, but different.

Why is it important?

For years, there has been some controversy betwen art historians and musicologists as to whether sound art should not be regarded as a mere genre of music. But this does not do justice to the many facets of this still emerging and highly dynamic creative field. My perspective allows sound art, and other acoustic art forms, to be appreciated and studied on their own terms, which is likely to broaden our analytical understanding of such works. The important point is that I'm not simply choosing sides in the debates, but that I use a materially grounded view of the history of media/technology to find a higher vantage point from which to assess the debate itself.


Gerald Fiebig
DEGEM - German Society for Electroacoustic Music

My practice in radio art and familiarity has been put to good use here, as this often-overlooked genre provided the leverage to crack open the music vs. sound art binarism of the previous debate.

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