MoMA’s “Soundings” exhibition: critiquing the critics

Interesting thoughts contained within this piece.


soundingsSoundings” is MoMA’s first exhibition dedicated solely to “sound art”. It features installations by 16 contemporary artists working with sound – these include notables such as Susan Philipsz (Scotland), Stephen Vitiello (America), Richard Garet (Uruguay), Marco Fusinato (Australia).

Recent reviews for “Soundings” have revealed some interesting attitudes held by critics towards the discipline of “sound art”. As each review contains common reactions to the show some general conclusions can be drawn about the type of sound-art critics prefer:

1. Installations using recognisable sounds or familiar melodic structures are received favourably.

2. Installations that utilise abstracted or dissonant sounds are received unfavourably.

Installations featuring voice, strings, and field recordings fared well in the reviews, these sounds being melodic or familiar to the listener. Thus, for sound art to be “successful”, must the audience recognise the source of the sounding object, or do the reviews merely reflect a conservatism…

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