Topic in Focus: Sound and Space

How are sound and space linked? How do they work together? Explore the collection with this curated set of free-to-read chapters.

This content is available in our Sound Studies collection.

Front cover of the book Sound Installations

Sound Installations

How does the space in which music is played recontextualise that music, changing the way it is interpreted and received by audiences? In the latter half of the 20th century, artist Max Neuhaus introduced the concept of the ‘sound installation,’ a musical endeavour in which sounds are “placed in space rather than time.” By transforming the environment in which music and sound is performed into an intentional, curated facet of the experience, these performances acquire a new spatial dimension to be grappled with. Jordan Lacey’s chapter from The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies explores the questions brought forward by this spatial form of music, and the ways in which installations can be used as an artistic tool in the future of music and sound.

Read Jordan Lacey's chapter, 'Sound Installations for the Production of Atmosphere as a Limited Field of Sounds' from The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies to find out more.

Front cover of the book Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music

Recording technology and the transience of live music

Until the dawn of the 1900s, music was a transient and ephemeral event; it disappeared when it was finished, and existed only with a specific framework of time. With the development of recording techniques, however, all this changed. According to legendary electronic composer Brian Eno in his chapter from Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, recording takes music out of the time dimension and places it in the dimension of space. It transforms what was once fleeting into something that is repeatable, enabling you to listen again and again to a performance in a way that is detached from the confines of the past, existing in a space that is always now.

Check out Eno's chapter, 'The Studio as a Compositional Tool', to learn more.

: Front cover of the book Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art

Time, space, and the experience of sound

How does being in a specific place change our relationship with the music that we hear? How do space and time unfold together in our auditory imagination? And how does our experience of sound and space change when listening to music or sound art where field recordings, the sounds of everyday life, are incorporated within the piece? In her book Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art, Salomé Voegelin undertakes a philosophical study of time and space to grapple with these complex questions of how we experience sound.

Click here to read more from Salomé Voegelin’s chapter 'Time and Space'.

Front cover of the book Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life

Sound and place: the sounds of the shopping mall

Acoustic design, the architectural pursuit of shaping the movements of sound through space to either minimise noise or harness the specific characteristics of that sound, provides a physical and practical basis upon which to study the relationship between space and sound. Perhaps among the most obvious examples we might think of are the soundproofed room or the concert hall; spaces designed to address an existing or anticipated sound event, albeit in opposite ways. But what about less obvious examples, spaces where sound and music are present, but not as the main event? In one chapter from Brandon LaBelle’s book Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life, the author turns his attention to the shopping mall. Labelle delves into the “ambient architecture” of the shopping mall, exploring the ways in which it uses music and sound to construct an environment that serves its greater purpose, that of consumerism.

Click here to read more from Brandon LaBelle’s chapter ‘Shopping Mall: Muzak, Mishearing, and the Productive Volatility of Feedback'.

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