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Sound. It’s the silent hero of so much of what we consume. But often, because of its brilliant subtlety - owing to the skill of a professional or nature’s omnipotence - we don’t even notice it’s there. Were you conscious of the sounds around you when you just read that sentence? Exactly. But if they stopped, you’d notice. Same goes with those surreal game enhancing noises in Madden NFL 25 or explosions in Call of Duty. The experience wouldn't be the same without them.
The Sound Art Showcase at Savannah College of Art and Design got me thinking about all of this. This is where graduate students from Dr. Andre Ruschkowski's sound art class, which covers a range of concepts like Italian Futurism and those by John Cage, demo their end of quarter projects. Before I went, I asked Professor Ruschkowski for a crash course in sound art.
Inspired by the colorful wind chimes in her home country, a student turns a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables into percussive instruments, assigning each one its own sound.
Thread: What is sound art?
Andre Ruschkowski: Sound art includes a lot of things that are usually excluded in music. Sound art can be anything that includes sound in some way and that’s meant to be presented in an art environment. It can be an installation, performance or mixed media component. It includes all of these things. Sound art is everything that goes beyond music and commercial applications of sound.
Jonathan Sewell uses Max/MSP software to create a patch where he gave brain waves a range and a pitch. He wears a monitor that measures the brain waves he releases, which his program then translates into sound.
T: What’s the difference between sound design and sound art?
AR: When you talk about sound design from an American understanding it means sound for motion pictures. Sound design in the rest of the world is about designing sound for different purposes: for a theatrical environment, for radio. Sound design is even part of product design. Sound design can be a lot of things and sound art is once special application of sound design.
Jai Berger’s “Synth Arcade” turns a retro video game control into a sound machine where the buttons and joystick play individual tones.
What does music look like? A graduate student demonstrates an interactive representation of a song in shape and color.