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Sonic Art

http://www.rhoadley.net/courses/sonicart - VLE - facebook

Reading List 2015-16


Timetable 2013-14, semester 2
Class Thursday 15.00-17.00 Hel040
Workshop Tuesday 12.00-13.00 BRY015
Richard Hoadley's office hours
(teaching weeks only)
Monday 1300-1500
Tuesday 1200-1300

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I thought (judging by the module title) that this module would be nothing more than exercises in artistic pretentiousness. I was pleasantly surprised that it was intellectually stimulating for more than one discipline - especially enjoyed bioacoustics.

Anonymous comment

 Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand the inter-relationships between musical/sonic/image creation and location/exhibition/performance, especially noting aesthetic and philosophical issues concerning sonic art.
  2. Consider the use of sound, light, structure, ecology, location and image as parts of performance/exhibition.
  3. Create and use software and hardware for tasks such as sonic manipulation, performance and/or exhibition.
  4. Utilise skills in public presentation, including an awareness of audience characteristics and responses, reacting spontaneously, managing risk and coping with the unexpected as well as in the acquisition of performance/exhibition opportunities.



This course involves the study of source recording, sonic manipulation and sonic installations. Although the course contains technical components, its focus is strictly aesthetic. A range of techniques will be examined, together with an investigation of current manifestations of Sonic Art in the UK and around the world, including installation art and bioacoustics. Discussion and analysis of the potential links between sound, light, structure, ecology, location and image will lead to experiments and exercises in the aesthetic and technical creation of acousmatic spaces. Students will be expected to investigate their own performance/demonstration opportunities and compose/arrange/design their creations to take account of the site-specific performance/exhibition space. Students will provide their collected exercises in a portfolio including a critical evaluation placing the student's work in the context of current trends in sonic art as well as providing a basis for the students own criteria and judgement.

to top of page  Content

  1. A series of lecture-workshops is used to introduce and explain various concepts and techniques behind the creation of sonic art.
  2. Specific software and hardware design tools are taught so that students may develop a familiarity with these that will enable them to produce items of sonic art.
  3. A comprehensive range of sonic artworks are examined and discussed in order to provide the students with a critical underpinning that will inform their choices of sonic art, especially regarding the effects of light, structure, ecology, location and image on the perception of sound.
  4. The main practical activity is the preparation of a series of new media items that will demonstrate an effective and creative application of the techniques studied during the module.
  5. Students will arrange an exhibition/concert during the semester in which they present their ideas publicly.


to top of page  Assessments

There are three main assessments arising from three projects:

The Make your Own Project
You will be divided into a number of small orchestras. Each member of each orchestra is required to create a musical instrument. The group will then compose and perform music for these instruments. Marks will be awarded for imagination and technical ability, including performance skills as well as the visual appearance of the instruments. Include demonstration and documentation.

The Bioacoustics and Bioart Project
In consulation with the Module Tutor, design, propose and implement a project based on one or more of the ideas behind bioacoustics and/or bioart. The nature of the project can be ecological as well as aesthetic, and should in any case include an ecological element - that is, a study of a certain acoustic soundscape and the interplay of sounds and sound-making objects within that enviroment.

Individual Project: Performance/Presentation/Exhibition/Installation
In consultation with the Module Tutor, design a project based on an idea linked to Sonic Art, for instance a piece of installation art, a piece of music based on graphic notation or the pixel information, etc., included in a film, etc. Students will arrange an exhibition/concert during the semester in which they present their ideas publicly. NB any performance element included in your project will not in itself be assessed.

Written Components
The Make Your Own and Individual projects should be accompanied by brief reports of approximately 100-200 words. The Bioacoustics/bioart project should be accompanied by a report of approximately 300-600 words.

• Also see the Task Summary

Detailed assessment information.


to top of page  Project/Task Summary

  Project Set Due Value (%)
All tasks are initially due by the beginning of the class of the identified week. This is the submission date if you would like initial feedback. Final submission for all material including tasks is Tuesday 10th May 2016.

If more than one weighting is given, the specific value of tasks will depend on your own submission's configuration (see above).
1 Make your Own Project w1 w4 25%
2 Bioacoustics Project w4 w8 25%
3 Individual Project w8 w12 50%

The final deadline for final submission of all material is Tuesday 10th May 2016.


to top of page  Assessment Criteria

Your work will be marked according to the criteria set out in the document Artefact Creation


to top of page  Tutorial Times



Please read the detailed submission notes.

to top of page  Group and Workshop Times


Individual Project - TBA
Please read the detailed submission notes


to top of page  Course Outline

to top of pagetasks123456789101112

Week Focus
Weeks 1-4: Make your Own
- Read Douglas Kahn, (1999), Noise Water Meat, MIT: Introduction and Part 1
- Introduction to Sonic Art
- The Turner Prize
- The Scrapheap Orchestra
- Perfection - Kings of Pastry
- Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Christmas
- David Hendy - Noise: A Human History 
--- the timelessness of sound (as opposed to music)

- Assessments
- Sonic Art Examples Presentation [0.9MB pdf]
- The Make your Own Project: 25%
- The Make Your Own Presentation [587KB pdf]

More suggestions
Listen to:
The Forum - The Real and the Virtual
The Forum - The Real and the Virtual - box of broadcasts

Algorithms and rules
- Go to "Wikipedia." 
- Hit "random" and the first article you get is the name of your band. 
- Then go to "Wikiquote" and choose "Random Page" and the last four or five words of the 
very last quote of the page is the title of your first album. 
- Then, go to Flickr and click on "Explore the Last Seven Days" and the third picture, 
no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

For next week
- bring along a briefly researched example of what you think of as sonic art 
to discuss with the rest of the group.

task summary |  VLE
- Read Douglas Kahn, (1999), Noise Water Meat, MIT: Parts 2 & 3
Online access available
- Discuss brought along examples of sonic art...
- Cornelius Cardew, the Scratch Orchestra and Social Involvement.
- Sonic Art Presentation [3.6MB pdf]

- The National Student Survey
- Mini-documentary about Christian Marclay

task summary |  VLE
Douglas Kahn, (1999), Noise Water Meat, MIT: Parts 4 & 5
Online access available

- Painting Music Presentation [pdf: 3.2MB]
Schafer, R. M. (1977). The tuning of the world. Parts 1 and 2.
Available in the library

MYO Workshop
Weeks 5-8: Bioacoustics/bioart

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- Read Schafer, R. M. (1977). The tuning of the world. New York: Knopf - parts 3 & 4
- Principles and ideas behind Bioacoustics and bioart.
- Bioacoustics  and bioart Presentation [pdf: 0.66MB]
- Gordon Hempton: Soundtracker
- Wildsong site
- The Bioacoustics and Bioart Project
More suggestions
Listen to:
- The UK's five weirdest sounding places
- Formulate Bioacoustics Project
- Soundscape: Journal of Acoustic Ecology (and many conferences)
- Listening: Listen and Hukkle
Other things
- The Sound of Life (BBC Radio Documentary Series)
- Read Krause, B., (2002), 
Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voice of the Natural World, 
Berkeley: Wilderness Press
Available in the University Library
- Interview with Bernie Krause and his 2015 book
- Bernie Krause TED talk: The voice of the natural world (2013)
- for next week listen to Duchamp's Urinal
- Graphic Abstraction Presentation [pdf: 4.9MB]

- Sonic and Kinetic Sculpture
- Robotics
- http://www.plinia.net/ (art history)
- Sonic Installations on the Web
- Mini-documentary about Christian Marclay
- Read De Oliveira, N., Oxley N., Petry M., Archer M., (2003), Installation Art, 
London: Thames and Hudson
This book (and other similar available in the University Library)
- Installation Art Presentation (pdf: 2.5MB)
- The Turner Prize
- Read Taylor, Brandon. (2004), Art today, London : Laurence King
Available in the University Library
- Bioacoustics Workshop
- Submissions will be chosen at random on the day.
Weeks 9-12: Individual Project

to top of pagetasks123456789101112

- If appropriate, discuss progress on Individual Projects
- Understand synaesthesia
- Synaesthesia Presentation

More reading
Synaesthesia: the strangest thing, Harrison, John E
Oxford New York Oxford University Press 2001
Available in the University Library

The man who tasted shapes, Richard E. Cytowic
Cambridge, Mass. ; London : MIT [New] ed.. 2003
Available in the University Library

- Metaform and Metaforming Presentation (pdf: 600KB)
- Appreciate the graphic and artistic manipulation of musical notation...
- Notation as Art presentation (1.8MB)  (if not presented last week)
- Music Notation Project
- Animated Notation
- Buzzfeed: How well can you read music?


- Tutorials
- Workshop, or Tutorials
- Workshop
- The Individual Project Workshops



to top of page  Reading and Listening

  • De Oliveira, N., Oxley N., Petry M., Archer M., (2003) Installation Art, London: Thames and Hudson
  • Krause, B. (2002), Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voice of the Natural World, Berkeley: Wilderness Press
  • Krause, B. (1998), Into a Wild Sanctuary: A Life in Music & Natural Sound, Berkeley: Heyday Books
  • Marclay, C., (2005), Christian Marclay London: Phaidon
  • Winkler, T. (2001), Composing Interactive Music, MIT Press


Various, (2000), OHM: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music, New York: Ellipsis Arts
Pauline Oliveros, (1990), Crone Music, New York: Lovely Music; 
Maggi Payne, (2001), Breaks and Motors, New York: Lovely Music; 
Louis & Bebe Barron, (1956), Forbidden Planet, New York: Crescendo; 


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