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Soundings: A Contemporary Score
August 10–November 3, 2013

MoMA's first major exhibition of sound art presents work by 16 of the most innovative contemporary artists working with sound. While these artists approach sound from a variety of disciplinary angles—the visual arts, architecture, performance, computer programming, and music—they share an interest in working with, rather than against or independent of, material realities and environments. These artistic responses range from architectural interventions, to visualizations of otherwise inaudible sound, to an exploration of how sound ricochets within a gallery, to a range of field recordings—including echolocating bats, abandoned buildings in Chernobyl, 59 bells in New York City, and a sugar factory in Taiwan.

The diversity of these works reflects a complex and nuanced field. Yet the exhibition posits something specific: that how we listen determines what we hear. Indeed, the works provoke and evoke—both in the maker and the museumgoer—modes of active listening, and a heightened relationship between interior and exterior space. At a time when personal listening devices and tailored playlists have become ubiquitous, shared aural spaces are increasingly rare. Many of the artists in the exhibition aim for such realities, and the sound they create is decidedly social, immersing visitors and connecting them in space. In many of the works, links are drawn between disparate topographies and subjects, giving rise to new understanding and experiences.

The artists in the exhibition are Luke Fowler (Scottish, b. 1978), Toshiya Tsunoda (Japanese, b. 1964), Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964), Richard Garet (Uruguayan, b. 1972), Florian Hecker (German, b. 1975), Christine Sun Kim (American, b. 1980), Jacob Kirkegaard (Danish, b. 1975), Haroon Mirza (British, b. 1977), Carsten Nicolai (German, b. 1965), Camille Norment (American, b. 1970), Tristan Perich (American, b. 1982), Susan Philipsz (Scottish, b. 1965), Sergei Tcherepnin (American, b. 1981), Hong-Kai Wang (Taiwanese, b. 1971), Jana Winderen (Norwegian, b. 1965), and Stephen Vitiello (American, b. 1964).


Luke Fowler & Toshiya Tsunoda

“As far back as I can remember, I have been interested in music. My neighbor’s father was in a band and encouraged us to play with whatever was at hand. In the early 1990s, my friends and I were excited about hip-hop, dub, dance and electronic music, and heavy metal. We relied upon the WEM Copycat—a tape echo unit—to give depth to cheap Yamaha keyboards. It stripped back the need for complex, virtuosic playing. Then came PCs, Cakewalk, and all things midi. My first synthesizer had a dull user interface and a lifeless sound. In this time of primitive sequencers you'd spend hours staring at a piano roll, fixing minute velocity changes.”

Luke Fowler
Scottish, lives Glasgow, b. 1978

“The sound of applause does not belong to either the left or the right hand; our concept of applause relies on an actual occurrence or interaction, a material and social object composed of hands, time, space, and, in this case, intention.”

Toshiya Tsunoda
Japanese, lives Yokohama, b. 1964