The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982

In Writing

Salomé Voegelin's Portal: Sound art non-anthologies

May 2014

The author guides us through a selection of sound art compilations of uncurated sounds and words, based on her contribution to The Wire 363 Compiler issue.

Sounding Art (2004)
The CD that accompanies Katharine Norman’s book does not bring tracks together to present the history of a sounding art but to deliberately provoke readers to stretch their listening. Sound works and music of different genres meet interviews and field recordings in the same space. The tracks are a séjourne through the field, infecting you with Norman's personal tastes and observations without closing down what you might think of them.

More Brilliant Than The Sun: Adventures In Sonic Fiction (1998)
Kodwo Eshun’s book is an explicit attempt to critique, subvert and expand how music is written about. It ridicules the conventions of (white) music journalism and proposes a writing that comes from sound, from its rhythm, from a bodily-cerebrality that hears a techno future rather than follows the trajectories of the past into the present. It is an incomplete one man non-anthology, presenting a profusion of non-compiled names and tracks, sounds and words that finish nowhere but endlessly continue to produce rhythms and hyperrythms along "alien rhythmborders". These do not close upon one sound but open the imagination towards other sounds and other words to populate the discourse of music and sound art beyond conventions and canons.

Sound By Artists (1990)
Sound By Artists is a collection of works, interviews and texts by artists and listeners working with sound. Edited by Dan Lander and Micah Lexier the book produces open connections and performs free juxtapositions that confirm the anecdotal, the personal and the narrative as essential elements in our understanding of things. Its incompleteness is its appeal: it engenders listening and participation rather than knowledge. I hope that its recent republication, 23 years after its first appearance, foretells the end of the age of the complete, the final and the totalised, and prophesies the beginning of a more haphazard and ambiguous sense of what belongs together and what things are called.

Compost And Height: Wolf Notes
Published by Sarah Hughes and Patrick Farmer (aka Compost And Height), Wolf Notes is an online journal that publishes "the parallel practices of musicians, artists and listeners of contemporary music". The first issue, writing and sound downloads, was published in January 2011. Since then five more have appeared, each seemingly with a theme, which soon disperses in the sound and text to propose many others. The issues make available small and fleeting connections that function as chance meetings rather than as catalogues, and engage the imagination in what else might sound together.

Magnetic Migration Music
Since 1998 the Edinburgh based artist Zoe Irvine has collected, cleaned up, spliced and respooled magnetic tape fragments found in the street and sent to her by other finders. The work brings together uncompilable musical tastes and cultural sound. As Irvine herself states, "it has been a great tool for exploring landscape, community, migration, music and medium."

There is an inherent contradiction in compiling a Portal on uncompiled and non-anthologised sounds and words. It represents its own conflict: attempting to consolidate that which should remain unconsolidated, open and opening towards listening. Non-anthologies and non-compiled sounds cannot be listed but need to be made. They are a process rather than an outcome: a desire to explore, to put things together and take them apart, and make up our own minds about what it is we hear. And so for my final two items in this list I would like to propose two tasks of non-compiling and non-anthologising to counteract what drives us to taxonomise, to organise under a theme, and instead to invite the production of private and personal narrations of the heard:

  1. Make a non-compilation of your favourite tracks, burn them on a CD and draw a cover picture and send it to a friend with instructions to do the same.
  2. Select your favourite texts on sound and music, and write one yourself, then edit your own non-anthology and shelf it at your local library.

Leave a comment

Pseudonyms welcome.

Used to link to you.