Jim's Reviews > Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories

Sound Art by Alan Licht
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's review
May 02, 2008

liked it
Recommended for: people with a nascent interest in experimental sound art / media / music

I think that Licht goes to great lengths to include a lot here, and he does name a lot of movements and people that are seminal in the world of sound art and experimental music. And he certainly does highlight some of the more central figures like Cage, the Dadaists, Alvin Lucier and LaMonte Young, and point out the connections they opened up in the field.

However, this book reads a lot like a laundry list, or a "Who's who" of Sound Art, and Licht doesn't go to much length to investigate the significance of any of these figures and their works. On one hand, that's a positive -- let your ears be the judge and go out and hear some of this work for yourself. On the other, we're naming DJ Spooky as a significant sound artist for his innovative "scratching" techniques (c'mon, really?) and not naming someone like Richard James (Aphex Twin) for his use of sandpaper on a turntable, among other efforts inspired by Marclay and artists before him. Why?

If you're making the move to include A LOT, to not include is a fairly political gesture. This is especially true when the bounds of the genre are nearly invisible and include many people who would consider themselves straight-up composers or musicians rather than "sound artists."

Licht gets 3 stars for just centrally locating a lot of mind-bending work in one tome, but he really does lose two stars by not really going into the meaning of any of it, and he leaves more questions than answers with the choices he makes.

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