ok, so this post has been sitting around for too long now, and it’s time to publish it as is.
My basic gripe with some multi-speaker installation art is when people use large loudspeaker drivers without boxes AND then drive them with low frequency signals and claim that the art work is about SOUND, not the kinetic qualities of the drivers…. yes, this is a specific engineering/physics-based gripe — essentially, speaker drivers will not produce any appreciable quantity of sound lower than a frequency of wavelength comparable to the driver diameter. So, any unframed loudspeaker used in an installation is basically a kinetic (non-sounding) object for low frequencies. Not Sound Art.
Essentially, this gripe means I like installations with unframed speakers that are small, or interestingly framed speakers (such as those in vases below), but I don’t like the claim that installations of large unframed speakers are sound art… unless we’re just talking about high frequencies, or the flapping sounds of low frequency signals’ non-linear distortion (which could be a redeeming factor)…
For further reading on the topic, look up the concept of the “infinite baffle” - the basic way of getting better bass response from a loudspeaker driver. Wikipedia has some decent information:
An ‘open baffle’ loudspeaker is an approximation to this as the transducer is mounted on a simple board of size comparable to the lowest wavelength to be reproduced.
There’s also a good short article on the infinite baffle by Sound On Sound.
and now, here’s the rest of the post as originally drafted…
a blog post in progress….
(photo from the artist’s site: ambriente)
pneumatic sound field by edwin van der heide
à voir en silence 2006, and Silent Music by Robin Minard, photo: Paul Armour via RealTime
‘Witness’ - Susan Hiller, Audio Sculpture, 2000
Photo: Rosie Allimonos, via ABC
Julie Mehretu and Stephen Vitiello’s Open Work
gallery for more examples