“Figures, Fragments, Fictions” (Gail Priest)


Last week’s lecture featured an amazing sound artist, Gail Priest. She made me understand the craft of sound unlike what I previously thought. Priest engaged with us students as she proved the international scope of such a craft. Priest travels the world, collecting sounds as well as in her very own backyard.

For instance, Priest allowed us to hear snippets of her projects. ‘Presentiments from the Spider Garden’ [Endgame Records, 2010] had my instant attention as my imagination immediately went to my own garden and the creatures that live within it. This piece is extremely magnetic and encourages you to hear the whole piece, you experience no boredom. Particularly, ‘Spider Dances’ as it has so much depth and texture, I loved it! The layers of sound exceed any expectations.

Priest went through the beginnings of sound art, allowing us to fully comprehend the meaning of “real world” sounds and how over time they’ve been manipulated differently. Priest referred to the Italian Futurists as ‘tamers’ of “real world” sounds and went on to discuss Musique Concrete and then through to John Cage and numerous others.

Throughout the lecture, a quote from Russolo stayed with me, “not that we want to destroy the movements and irregular vibrations… but to simply fix the degree” . I’m a rookie in regard to my knowledge for sound as a singular production but I took this quote to mean, no sound artist takes a “real world” sound and dismisses its self significance but enhances aspects of it that no other person would think to.



Another figure, spoken about in this lecture and the last, John Cage. Cage’s 4’33” [1952] (as shown above) forces a personal engagement with surrounding sounds as it lacks in actual sound however allows for one’s interpretation to come forth. The silence is what engages the audience and what keeps the engagement remain. Cage forces us to understand the power of silence and how we can learn from it.

Personally, sound art is relatively new to me despite my perhaps unconscious engagement with various pieces. However, the more I listen and learn about sound art, the more I’m interested in the processes and techniques of making a sound perhaps so ordinary and transforming it into something beyond. Sound art continues to surprise me and make me think of the importance of listening.



Russolo Quote: L. Russolo, 1913, The Art of Noises, accessed form UBUweb, accessed from http://www.ubu.com/historical/gb/russolo_noise.pdf, March 16 2016

John Cage‘s 4’33” [Uploaded on Dec 15, 2010] via John Hochberg

William Marx performing John Cage’s 4’33.
McCallum Theatre, CA, USA


Also check out:  http://www.gailpriest.net/recordedsound.html

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