Many of the developments in online culture over the past decade have been driven by sound. Napster launched its music sharing service in 1999, and while file sharing may still be controversial, it is increasingly common. Similarly 'mashups' were a copyright-infringing experimental music genre, combining existing music to create new works. Now web and data mashups are central to the Web 2.0 internet of today. Over the same period the term 'sound art' has grown to encompass a wide range of practices across installation, performance, composition, recording and broadcast. Not surprisingly, there are now countless websites that cater to sound arts enthusiasts in one way or another. Here are some of the best.
Beginning with a focus on sound poetry, UbuWeb is now a massive archive of not just sound, but also text and video. Its strength is its coverage of the 20th century American and European avant garde—Australian artists are sadly under-represented. Sometimes controversial for publishing before obtaining permission, UbuWeb is nevertheless an essential resource for students and researchers.
The Australian Sound Design Project
Ros Bandt and Ian Mott's research project at the University of Melbourne documents Australian artists working with sound in public space and the nexus between installation and acoustic ecology. Taking the form of a database it does a good job of documenting many relatively established practitioners and their projects. A number of dead links suggest that this site is no longer being actively maintained, which is a pity as it has provided a valuable service. Another excellent survey project from a few years ago is Jon Rose's Australia Adlib a guide to "the wild, the weird and the vernacular in Australian music".
Australian Music Centre
In some ways the Australian Music Centre's slick new website picks up where the Australian Sound Design project left off, providing an accessible database of works and practitioners, albeit with a bias towards classical and New Music. While some in the sound arts sector have concerns as to whether the AMC adequately represents them, the AMC has attempted to engage with it more substantially in recent years, perhaps most successfully through a number of articles in its online Resonate Magazine.
Now a key participant in Australian music discourse, Cyclic Defrost started several years ago as an underground electronic music zine associated with Sydney's Frigid club. It has steadily transformed into one of the best and most comprehensive publications covering leading edge developments in contemporary music. There is much more content online than can fit into the often beautifully designed print version: the number of reviews published each month is staggering, and perhaps best consumed as an RSS feed. Not afraid to mix the popular with the experimental, Cyclic Defrost is thankfully largely absent of the sneering tone which spoils so much music writing.
The importance of radio in Australian sound culture should not be underestimated. Sound arts thrive on community radio, and the ABC has played a crucial role over the years with programs such as the Listening Room and, more recently, the Night Air. The latter's remix ethos is a key part of the Pool website, which is still in its beta stage, but growing rapidly. An experiment in user generated content, started by a group of Radio National producers, the Pool encourages the public to share and collaborate on creative content, including access to a growing selection from the ABC's archives.
At the commercial end of the Web 2.0 spectrum are sites such as Last.fm, which was recently acquired by CBS. While not about sound art per se, Last.fm leverages the listening statistics of huge user base to provide recommendations and aggregate information about artists. Its targeted streaming service is an excellent way to discover new work, although unfortunately it now requires a paid subscription to listen in Australia. Sites such as Last.fm, Spotify (not yet available in Australia) and SoundCloud (aimed at artists and labels) are redefining how music is discovered, consumed and shared.
An offshoot of the well-known net art site Furtherfield, Furthernoise is a platform that includes critical articles, a netlabel and streaming experiments. Editor Roger Mills recently moved to Sydney, resulting in an increased amount of Australian content on the site.
Australia's national sound art festival has now been going for 10 years. This year the website was revamped, with more easily accessible information and audio downloads. Most interesting is the inclusion of a blogger in residence, with Jared Davis providing much needed critical coverage of the festival and of issues in Australian sound art.
ANAT's Embracing Sound program provides important information and advocacy for the Australian sound arts sector. Much of this work occurs behind the scenes, but other outcomes are public, such as the recent national tour of US sound theorist Douglas Kahn, and a special sound edition of Art Monthly Australia. The ES web site also provides a useful news feed of events and opportunities.
Written by Shannon O'Neill
Shannon O'Neill is a sound and media artist. He has directed the Electrofringe and Sydney Liquid Architecture festivals, runs the netlabel aliasfrequencies.org and teaches media arts at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Images correspond to current reviews in Resonate Magazine Thumbnail: Rosemary Joy, System Building @ Yatzek - Aphids
Main image: Continuum Sax: Winterscenario, performer, Meiwah Williams, video artist, Rachael A Brown.