MiMi L. | Ed. Cristina Brooks | 10 January 2021
As our mind processes a sound to make it relevant to us, this sound may be interpreted as music or noise. In our next Agora Talk, the audio-visual artist Monica Vlad shares how she incorporates noise in an aesthetic, imaginative and intuitive way during her live performances.
Sound art is ubiquitous and polymorphic: be it music, modern composition, experimental noise, sound design, multimedia, installation, performance, new media or audio-visual work. Although sound art is a more recent New Media phenomenon than traditional Painting or Sculpture, the “arts of sound” has a rich history that started back in the early years of recorded sound and was advanced by Futurism, Dada, Fluxus and Conceptual Art.
As David Hendy reminds us in his book Noise, a Human History of Sound and Listening, sound travels freely through the air. Therefore, the soundscapes floating through an audience act like a fluid. They overlap, they filter into one another in unpredictable ways that we may appreciate.
Some sounds might even have intrinsic benefits since they are used in music therapy, such as the wind in the trees, birds chirping or waterfalls. What happens when our internal moment is interrupted by a noise?
ASA (Auditory Scene Analysis) is the ability we have to unravel what we might otherwise dismiss as meaningless noise. And, ASA is built on our fundamental tendency to group similar things. In Western music, this means melodic lines with small step-wise intervals of few pitches, stand-out textures or timbres.
Here comes the moment Monica Vlad, our talk guest, plays with the ASA rules to create an individual language through illusions in which each sound is treated as a resonant acoustic complex filled with rich textures.
Vlad uses perceptual light illusions as musical devices in her immersive acoustical polyphony. And vice versa, her sound still operates in an extremely visual way, especially when her mixing tables are visible. In our next Agora talk, Vlad will share with us the importance of trusting her intuition compared to her analytic reasoning when she performs live. The “live” response of the audience helps her to quickly alter or select another portion to compose. This is pure freedom of expression for an artist! Don’t be mistaken, all the performances are scored for visuals and sounds, but the live interaction with the public allows Vlad to create infinite variations of her work by adding small details to her performance. Her sound palette includes noise, ambient and experimental; from low to very high frequencies that no one can barely hear; from minimal to glitch, from analogue to digital.Can a performance concert radically change our mood?