Sound Art 101   05.28.14

We at SPACES are a little intimidated by The Vault guest curator Christopher Auerbach-Brown's cunning wit and musical genius. So, we asked him to break it down and tell us what we should be listening for in the upcoming selection of sound art, Apopheny - Epiphany: What is Random?

Sound Art 101 by Christopher Auerbach-Brown
Sound art (or Audio art, or whatever you want to call it) is, strangely enough, a genre often practiced by...visual artists. This may seem odd at first – after all, don't musicians reign over the world of sound? – so the purpose of this introduction is to explain this quirk while hopefully giving the listener a framework from which to delve into The Vault exhibition.

First, defining sound art is tricky, because it can also be heard as music. But one distinguishing characteristic of sound art is that it simply does not present itself in a normal musical manner. Typically, there are no melodies, no drum beats, no lyrics, no chord changes, no shredding guitar solos. Instead, sound artists utilize any and all sounds as raw ingredients, much like a sculptor shapes his or her materials to gradually 'reveal' their final sculpture. Musicians who double as sound artists often speak of "letting go" of their musical background, "breaking new ground" or "starting over" when working in this medium.

Next, works of sound art are often site-specific in nature. In order to fully appreciate these types of pieces, you need to experience them in the locale for which they are intended. Physically displacing them by listening with earbuds or on a home stereo system ultimately causes the listener to miss out on certain nuances of the work in question.

Given this information, how does one ready him- or herself to listen? It's simple.

Let go.

Wipe the slate clean.

Push aside any preconceptions or assumptions of what it is you will hear.

Now, let the materials and sounds transport you to a new place. The journey has many twists and turns, but the 'sonic path' will reveal itself through patient listening and observation. You will develop your own set of listening guidelines, to be kept secret or shared with others, if you like. But don't worry – it's all there, if you open your ears and mind. Stick with it for at least five to ten minutes. You may become a tad impatient at first, but once you work through this initial mental barrier, your brain will become more susceptible to the content of this exhibition.

Or, to quote John Cage:
"nothing is accomplished by writing a piece of music
nothing is accomplished by hearing a piece of music
nothing is accomplished by playing a piece of music
our ears are now in excellent condition."

Cheers to a fruitful adventure...

Author: Christina Vassallo, Executive Director
Category: History

Lyn Goeringer by Christopher Auerbach-Brown   05.14.14

In this second installment of interviews between The Vault guest curator, Christopher Auerbach-Brown, and the sound artists participating in Apopheny – Epiphany: What is Random?, Lyn Goeringer sheds some light on the power of sound, the robust Cleveland sound art community, and the inspiration behind her newest piece. If you'd like to hear what she's making for The Vault, come to the opening on May 30th, or have a listen at SPACES through July 22nd.

CAB: How did you first get started as a sound artist/experimental musician? What is it that attracts you to the wonderful world of sound?
LG: My start in sound art and experimental music comes from a few different places. The first was watching the Denver Symphony Orchestra play Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima when I was in elementary school.  I'd never heard musical instruments perform with extended techniques, so I was hooked. I wanted to hear those things, to write those things down for other people to play. When I finally got to college to start learning composition, I gravitated towards different boundaries and sound ideas, different modes of composition and such. I was also really invested in how sound works, and the physics and psychophysics of music and sound. My composition and art practice became not only about what sounds I made, but how we listened to them. For me, sound has power, real, tangible power that can transform space and time, and by doing so it can affect our human existence. Sound is pretty much the best thing ever. 

CAB: How does Cleveland's experimental music scene inspire your work?
LG: I'm somewhat new to Cleveland's experimental scene, as I moved here only a year and a half ago. What I can say is this: Cleveland's experimental music scene inspires my work by being so visible, so eager, so willing and ready to embrace new composers, new performers, new sound artists and really making it possible for people to get their music and sounds out there. Seriously! I have never seen or heard of such a vibrant community any where else. I'm so lucky to be here to take part in it. 

CAB: Give us a hint as to what your work for the Vault exhibition will be like, without divulging too many details. Think of this as an enticing peek at your piece and your working process.
LG: When asked to participate in this show, you gave a few brief guidelines that focused on using the resonant frequencies of the room, a list of those frequencies, and the basic concept of the show, which would focus on random connections that we make between images and sound. I was lead to a path of hidden things: a space I would not be able to explore hands on while working on the piece, accompanying video content that I would have no knowledge of before hand, and a collection of pitches that were provided to me that I would have to trust were accurate and gathered in a way I could understand. Indeed, making the piece would be engaging deeply with the concepts of apophany, of coincident and randomly occurring events that may or may not have a perceivable meaning when joined. Knowing these things, and trying to make connections of my own, I have chosen to work with algorithmic processes to generate the sound environment (music? maybe) that I'm working with. The piece focuses heavily on geomantic principles, where the timing structure is based on various esoteric writings by Aleistar Crowley. Though the 'numbers' within the system I have designed are pre-determined (the pitches used in the piece, possible duration and volumes of notes heard), the piece is largely dependent on randomizing structures within the computer environment it is designed around. 

CAB: How does the work you're making for The Vault connect with your future projects (or not)?
LG: Over the next few months I'll be working on a new album, and its basic structure will have an influence over The Vault piece.  I'll be performing in the area a bit this coming fall (dates and times TBA), and I also have a large installation that uses light bulbs to make sound. I'll be posting on my website and twitter feed with dates and locations as things are determined.  

Author: Christina Vassallo, Executive Director
Category: Exhibitions

2014 - 15 Graphic Designer Fellowship   05.06.14

SPACES is extending our mission of being "the public forum for artists who explore and experiment" to graphic designers, through our SPACES Graphic Designer Fellowship.

We will use our quarterly Field Guide publication and other print and web-based collateral to showcase emerging talent in graphic design and increase the number of cultural producers who participate in our programs each year. Those selected will be able to leave their creative mark on SPACES' graphic design projects that promote the transformational work we support through our main programs and upcoming capital campaign.

Fellows will be involved in all aspects of the design process, including brainstorming, developing the graphic identities for projects, and review process, and will serve a crucial role in the development of the SPACES aesthetic.

The Fellow will be asked to ensure that the SPACES brand identity remains consistent, while including playful elements that are appropriate to the organization's ethos.

The Fellow will be asked to find exciting design strategies within an established template for our quarterly 16-page "Field Guide" booklet and apply creativity to the development of a design for some or all of the following: Annual Appeal (rack card), Benefit (4 panel brochure), Monster Drawing Rally (post card), Season Pass/Quarter Art mailers (3 panel brochure), and/or graphics for web.

The design/ownership/copyright and original source (Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop) files must remain the property of SPACES, and all work created as part of this Fellowship will be the shared property of SPACES-for indefinite use-and the Fellow.

The Fellow will have a knowledge of standard protocols to prepare all documents for the printing process.

The functional requirements of the Fellowship opportunity may vary in length, depending onthe scope of the project.

Work on Field Guides garners a $600 honorarium. Fellows will receive a set honorarium for production of additional materials, which varies from project to project.

Fellows will receive portfolio development; their work will be highlighted on the SPACES blog and through our social media platforms. On printed matter and web-based projects, Fellows will receive design credit.

Please submit the following in one .pdf file:
-Statement that describes your interest in this opportunity and what you could bring to the SPACES visual identity;
-Current CV or résumé with URL listed;
-Three professional references (please include contact information);
-3 to 5 examples of relevant graphic design work.

This is an ongoing open call. Please submit all materials and inquiries to

Keywords: graphic design
Author: Christina Vassallo, Executive Director
Category: General

David Russell Stempowski by Christopher Auerbach-Brown   05.05.14

SPACES asked Christopher Auerbach-Brown, our visiting The Vault curator, to pose a few questions to the sound artists participating in Apopheny – Epiphany: What is Random?, opening on May 30th. Here, David Russell Stempowski talks about how he got started making sound art, the larger context of the Cleveland music scene, and what he is contributing to The Vault.

CAB: How did you first get started as a sound artist/experimental musician? What is it that attracts you to the wonderful world of sound?
DRS: I grew up playing drums and percussion after my grandfather, Russell Ingrassia, gave me a snare drum at age ten. After about twelve years of playing rather traditionally I began to take an interest in creating experimental music. Throughout my life I've always been attracted to the textural moments in-between chords or at the end of songs, I found a lot of textural passages in industrial music and jazz. Sometime around 1999 a friend simultaneously turned me on to Ornette Coleman, "Free Jazz and Merzbow Pulse Demon." I don't think I ever listened to anything the same way afterwards. My early excursions into experimental music often involved four track tape manipulation of various percussive and dissonant sounds.

CAB: How does Cleveland's experimental music scene inspire your work?
DRS: It offers a lush mixture of noise, synthesizer and academic experimental music filled with outsiders searching for new techniques and sounds. Over the past decade the thoughtfulness and creativity I have witnessed has driven me to be a more innovative and productive artist. Cleveland is lucky to be situated between Chicago and New York as a stop for many touring musicians. Through the years I have had opportunities to see and share the stage with many extremely inspiring and challenging acts.

CAB: Give us a hint as to what your work for the Vault exhibition will be like, without divulging too many details. Think of this as an enticing peek at your piece and your working process.
DRS: For The Vault I've been recording long passages in opposing directions, frenetic short loops and pensive tonal sketches. I've been cutting those recordings into precise phrases and loops and weaving them together into a longer composition that changes focus every thirty to sixty seconds. This is my typical style when I record / perform under my Collapsed Arc moniker. For this work in particular I've been keeping in mind what you mentioned to me about frequencies and random juxtapositions. If time allows I may layer in some field recordings from SPACES.

CAB: How does the work you're making for The Vault connect with your future projects (or not)?
DRS: As an experimental musician I'm currently dividing my time between my solo work as Collapsed Arc and my experimental music / performance art duo with Josh Novak called Stopped Clock. My loop-based work with these two projects connects directly to the work I'm making for The Vault. I'm also perform in a gothic hard rock band called MURDERMAN where, in addition to singing, I engage in theatrics using lights, mirrors and other props. MURDEREDMAN is working on a new batch of songs while preparing to do some summer touring. Josh and I are busy recording and preparing performance routines, we play out in Cleveland fairly often. I'm also finishing up my first solo LP for release later this year. Beyond that I run a small record label, Polar Envy, and I do freelance graphic design in addition to my day job making prototypes at American Greetings.

Author: Christina Vassallo, Executive Director
Category: Exhibitions

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