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Sound of music

It may sound incredible, but a new form of art — sound art — is fast catching the fancy of Indian artists. Girija Duggal tells more.

art and culture Updated: Jan 01, 2009 20:19 IST
Girija Duggal

It may sound incredible, but a new form of art — sound art — is fast catching the fancy of Indian artists. An unknown medium till now, sound or sonic art is making its presence felt in the country, with organisations like Khoj and Religare Arts Initiative and groups such as B.L.O.T and Delhi Electronica Supply Unit (DESU) working on promoting the medium.

These artists are pushing conventional boundaries of art to explore sound in all its forms — natural, ambient, percussive, and digital. Their work blends music, sounds, technology and the visual medium to form a whole new artistic experience.
Aastha Chauhan, community and outreach coordinator, Khoj International Artists’ Association says, “Sound [art] had been huge in the German scene and some acts had been performed in India but no crossover was happening. So we thought of inviting some artists here.”

That was in 2006, when Khoj organised its first sonic art workshop, Hybrid Sonicscapes, followed by a month-long residency featuring five international sound artists.

A second such residency — Sonic Arts 2008 — was organised with artists Kiran Subbaiah and Navin Thomas, Andrej Hrvatin and Geert-Jan Hobijn.

Musician Brin Desai of DESU, an alternative electronica music collective, calls it “non-music sound”. “Unlike music, this is more concept-based. It doesn’t have normal connotations connected with music, like verse, chorus, etc. The sound could be anything from a small tin-tin to a brazen sawing sound,” says Desai, who uses computer-generated sounds and percussion instruments for his art.

Gaurav Malaker (23) of B.L.O.T, a three-member band that juxtaposes sounds with visuals, says, “We try to build a story around the music and video. It’s different from just ‘music’— it’s about the experience, the audio and visual interacting to create a whole new media.”

The encouraging news is that the mainstream art circuit is taking notice. Art gallery Religare Arts.I, has been including sound installations by artists such as Baptist, Samar Jodha and Budhaditya Chattopadhyay in all its exhibitions. The latter’s work is part of the ongoing Nature of the City exhibit. Says Mukesh Panika, director, Religare Arts Initiative, “Sound art has really caught on in the last four months [in Delhi]...even artists are expanding their own scope of work to include photography, sculpture and sound art.”

The audience’s response to this abstract art is enough testimony of its growing popularity.