Sound by Artists

Edited by Dan Lander and Micah Lexier

385 pages, facsimile edition, softcover, black-and-white, 15cm x 23cm
ISBN 978-1-895166-28-6

Published by
Blackwood Gallery and Charivari Press in 2013. Originally published in 1990 by Art Metropole and Walter Phillips Gallery

Out of print

Cover of Sound by Artists book

This book is a facsimile edition of the 1990 book Sound by Artists, which was produced as part of Art Metropole’s “…by Artists” series and was co-published by Walter Phillips Gallery. This seminal text on the topic of sound art was out of print. The new facsimile edition once again makes this book affordable and accessible. This book contains 35 essays and projects as well as a 21-page “listening list” of sound recordings by artists. The book has been redesigned for this edition by Micah Lexier and Matthew Hoffman. Please note that this facsimile edition does not contain the Christian Marclay flexi-disk and does not have actual raised Braille on the cover.


The desire to compile this anthology was driven by the noticeable lack of information and critical analysis regarding an art of sound. Although there has been an abundance of activity centred around explorations into sonic expression, there is no sound art movement, as such. In relation to artists’ works, sound occupies a multitude functions and its employment is often coupled with other media, both static and time-based. As a result, it is not possible to articulate a distinct grouping of sound artists in the way one is able to identify other art practices. As the reader will discover, the ideas and projects put forth between the covers of this book are diverse and at times at odds with one another. The contributors included span many disciplines: critic, curator, writer, composer, video artist, installation artist, visual artist, performance artist and some more aptly described as sound, audio or radio artist. Sound by Artists is a collection of information pertaining to a disparate art form, presented in the hopes of stimulating dialogue.

The terms experimental music and sound art are considered by some to be synonymous and interchangeable. In fact, it is difficult to identify an art of sound precisely because of its historical attachment to music. Although music is sound, the tendency has been to designate the entire range of sonic phenomenon to the realm of music. With the introduction of noise—the sounds of life—into a compositional framework tending towards the ephemeral and avoiding the referential, artists and composers have created works based on the assumption that all sounds uttered are music. Futurist Luigi Russolo, envisioning an all-inclusive music, states in The Art of Noises: Futurist Manifesto (1913) that:

We want to give pitches to these diverse noises, regulating them harmonically and rhythmically. Giving pitch to noises does not mean depriving them of all irregular movements and vibrations of time and intensity, but rather assigning a degree or pitch to the strongest and most prominent of these vibrations. Noise differs from sound, in factm only to the extent that the vibrations that produce it are confused and irregular. Every noise has a pitch, some even a chord, which predominates among the whole of its irregular vibrations. [1]

Noise is considered by Russolo for its expressive musical qualities only and not for any other significant meaning(s) that it may hold. Here, we have a definition of music that considers all (organized) sound as music, limiting the possibilities for an art of sound autonomous from the structures and presuppositions traditionally attached to musical composition and reception. The imposition of a ‘musical template’ onto the sounds that otherwise, in a day to day context, have meanings other than musical ones, leads us to a dead end conclusion: all sound is music. In defense of a music autonomous from noise, Chris Cutler, drummer and critic has written:

But if, suddenly, all sound is ‘music,’ then by definition, there can be no such thing as sound that is not music. The word music becomes meaningless, or rather it means ‘sound.’ But ‘sound’ already means that. And when the word ‘music’ has been long minted and nurtured to refer to a particular activity in respect of sound—namely its conscious and deliberate organization within a definite aesthetic and tradition—I can see no convincing argument at this late stage for throwing these useful limitations into the dustbin…. [2]

The ‘useful limitations’ that constitute and enrich a musical art practice, restrain and limit an art of sound. The stripping away of meaning from the noise of our world constitutes a refusal—to engage ourselves in dialogue with the multiplicity of meanings conveyed by the sounds we produce, reproduce and hear. If a critical theory of sound (noise) is to develop, the urge to ‘elevate all sound to the state of music,’ will have to be suppressed. Noise—your lover’s voice, a factory floor, the television news—is ripe with meaning and content distinguishable from the meaning and content of musical expression. It is this content that constitutes any possibility for an art of sound.

–excerpted from the Introduction by Dan Lander

1. Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noises (New York: Pendragon Press, 1986).
2. Chris Cutler, ‘Editorial Afterword,’ RēRecords Quartlery, Vol.2, No.3 (London: 1988).

Table of Contents

Preface  Micah Lexier  9

Introduction  Dan Lander  10

The Future of Music: Credo  John Cage  15

Soundings  Suzanne Delehanty  20

The Sound of One Line Scanning  Bill Viola  39

Speaking, the Holding of Breath/ A Conversation between Marysia Lewandowska and Caroline Wilkinson  Marysia Lewandowska  55

Listen  Max Nehaus  63

About My Installations  Christina Kubisch  68

Anti-Copyright and Cassette Culture   Donal McGraith  73

Notes of a Listener  Max Bruinsma  88

Wisdom About Audio Art  Richard Kostelanetz  97

Radio: Audio Art’s Frightful Parent  Bruce Barber  108

Parole/ mots/ words/ wörter  Maurizio Nannuci  138

Speaker Swinging  Gordon Monahan  140

As Told To: structures for conversation  Daina Augaitis  146

Cut and paste: Collage and the Art of Sound  Kevin Concannon  161

Selected Audio Works, 1970-1980  Ian Murray  183

I am sitting in a room  Alvin Lucier  191

In Conversation with Douglas Simon  Alvin Lucier  193

Bodies, Anti-Bodies and Nobodies  Gregory Whitehead  199

Mystery Tapes  Mystery Laboratory  202

Radical Radio  R. Murray Schafer  207

Piano Transplants  Annea Lockwood  217

A Sound Map of the Hudson River  Annea Lockwood  220

Cool Drool  Hildegard Westerkamp  227

VEC AUDIO EXCHANGE  Rod Summers  235

Very Nice, Very Nice  Ihor Holubitzky 241

Notes on the Phonograph Records  Jack Goldstein  259

Soundtrack  Moniek Darge and Godfried-Willem Raes 262

Proposal for Conceptual Musick  Graf Haufen  282

Event for Amplified Body, Laser Eyes and Third Hand  Stelarc  284

John Cage on Radio and Audio Tape  Richard Kostelanetz  289

Audio Art in the Deaf Century  Douglas Kahn  301

Mimicry  Rita McKeough  329

Sound Page  Christian Marclay  337

A Selection of Recorded Works by Artists  339

A Selected Bibliography  361

About the Contributors  375

Index  381

Artists & Writers

Daina Augaitis
Bruce Barber
Max Bruinsma
John Cage
Kevin Concannan
Moniek Darge
Suzanne Delehanty
Jack Goldstein
Graf Haufen
Ihor Holubizky
Douglas Kahn
Richard Kostelanetz
Christina Kubisch
Marysia Lewandowska
Annea Lockwood
Alvin Lucier
Christian Marclay
Donal McGraith
Rita McKeough
Gordon Monahan
Ian Murray
Mystery Laboratory
Maurizio Nannucci
Max Neuhaus
Godfried-Willem Raes
R. Murray Schaeffer
Rod Summers
Bill Viola
Hildegard Westerkamp
Gregory Whitehead
Caroline Wilkinson
R. Murray Schaeffer
Rod Summers
Bill Viola
Gregory Whitehead
Hildegard Westerkamp
Caroline Wilkinson


Editing and Design: Dan Lander and Micah Lexier

Copy editor: Joyce Mason

Proofreading: Janice Carbert and Richard Naster 

Scanning: Visual Resource Library, Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre and the Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga 

Graphic Design: Matthew Hoffman

How To Order

This publication is no longer available. For research purposes, please check for the library holding of this title closest to you.


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Reviews of the Facsimile Edition:

Editors Lander and Lexier have made a brave attempt to define exactly what “sound by artists” is, collating over 30 essays ranging from interview excerpts with John Cage to art installation literature; discussion over how everyday “noise” constitutes audio art; cassette culture of the 80s; and pioneering tape-splicing the likes of which Steinski helped take overground.
...There’s some seriously good stuff here, though, forcing the reader to think about how they perceive their surroundings, while it also reveals how some seriously forward-thinking brains have freed music-making from the strictures of traditional songwriting.

—Jason Draper, Record Collector, June 2013.

...the art historical essays contain some great writing and provide a context for the emerging thoughts of the time... The pieces from the artists’ end of the spectrum, taking in scores, interviews,documentation of events, theories and outlines of then-ongoing projects, hold up remarkably well. ...The icing on the cake, though, is surely the absurdly extensive list of audio works by artists that concludes the book.

—Matthew Erickson, The Wire, June 2013. reedición del también histórico libro "Sound by Artists",
publicado originalmente en 1990 y editado por Dan Lander y Micah Lexier. Pues bien, hace sólo unos meses la Blackwood Gallery y Charivari Press pusieron a la venta una edición facsímil de este volumen, cuya versión original sólo puede encontrarse a precios astronómicos, y en muy contadas ocasiones. Así que aquellos interesados en leer las contribuciones a este ya clásico volumen de autores como John Cage, Kevin Concannan, Douglas Kahn, Richard Kostelanetz, Christina Kubisch o Annea Lockwood, entre muchos otros, ahora tienen una oportunidad mucho más sencilla para hacerlo

Ars Sonora, Radio Clásica - Radio Nacional de España

Reviews of the 1st Edition:

The 32 contributions cross generations and approaches to sound work—from soundscapes to installations, from radio to cassette publishing. ...this book is worth having. Lander's and Lexier's prolonged efforts are much appreciated.
—Clive Robertson, Fuse, Winter 1991, Vol. 14 No. 3.

...a handsome and highly readable collection of essays, apologia, manifestos, and interviews about sound art. There are historical overviews, surveys of recent work, discussions of copyright (a big issue in the age of digital sampling) and even some recipes for reproducing works of sound art.
—Robert Everett-Green, The Globe & Mail

...the diversity is enormous, both in the documentation of sound art and the number of issues discussed, but it's the inclusion of provocative essays by the likes of Douglas Kahn (an intelligent critique of music being a hindrance to the development of a wider sound art) that really stands out.
—EST Magazine

...this is a valuable collection of articles driven, as Dan Lander says in his preface, 'by the noticeable lack of information and critical analysis regarding an art of sound' despite the 'abundance of activity centred around explorations into sonic expression', and is a useful discussion document for re-visioning what be a more healthy and innovative future for audio art.
—Variant Magazine #13

Related Projects

January 16 - March 10, 2013
Curated by Christof Migone