Edgar Varese described in The Liberation of Sound back in 1939 how sound was undergoing liberation from traditional musical trajectories and from “form” itself. He sought his own work not be contained in any of the pre-existing forms held stagnant by music history. Currently, we are undergoing another wave of sonic liberation that minimal artists and experimental musicians have been building upon since the mid-twentieth century: the expansion of sound into physical, virtual, and perceptive space. Throughout history, sound has been deeply intertwined with and in some ways, dependent on vision. The Sonic Arts have played a major role in the liberation of sound, declaring that pure sound, void of human molding or musical structure, void of image or cinema holds enough content to be given the attention equal to if not greater than the visual art form. As is stated by Sulsman and Strasser in their book Sound in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, it is the “unique possibilities that thinking about sound can open up, the potential importance of thinking about all kinds of sensory experience (not just visual), and the inadequacy of analyzing a single kind of sensory knowledge apart from all others.”
What is this emergence of ephemeral, nearly immaterial media that calls so much attention to sensory experience, particularly sound, and what was the cause? When a media expands notions of time, has a deep effect on our sense perception and brain state, yet is completely invisible, do we can simply tag it as a byproduct of new technologies or the information age and call it quits? As Marshall McLuhan reminds us, our relationship to technology is not a one-way street. Though technology plays a large part in today’s production of sound, as the fields of acoustic ecology and sound studies point out that there are contextual layers of experience to be considered in its transmission.
The liberation of sound has affected artistic experience by opening possibilities inside and outside of traditional art spaces, creating alternative presentation methods and modes of interactive engagement. This paper looks at not only the blurred art and music history of art as becoming relieved form and formal constraints, but as an active re-orienting in aesthetics towards the immaterial, the visceral, and the experiential, and how this might be considered a political move or even a form spiritual resurgence. It ponders how transient art forms have cultivated substantial content and new philosophies amidst the ever expanding commodity driven post-post modern late capitalism, what this means for the merging of mind and matter, and how sound has played a lead role in this process.