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Sound pavilions

Myatt, A (2017) Sound pavilions In: Sound Art: Sound as a Medium of Art. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262029667

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Abstract

The hyperbolic parabolas of Xenakis’ Philips Pavilion for Brussels Expo 58 have resonated through the canon of post-war architecture. The structure has become an icon of the modern and heralded as one of the most significant moments in the history of twentieth-century electronic music for its use of spatialised sound. Architectural pavilions are regularly exhibited throughout the world. They range from student experiments such as the UK Architectural Association’s Summer Pavilions series to site-specific 2 interventions in the manner of Benoît le Thierry d’Ennequin and Yves Pagès's entrance-pavilion for the Palace of Versailles in France. London’s Serpentine Gallery has commissioned temporary pavilions from some of the world’s most prominent architects and artists for their annual series since 2000. This has included work by Hadid, Libeskind, Eliasson, Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron and Radić. Pavilions as a vehicle to explore architectural form, architectural sites and new construction materials, or simply to express the joy of architectural virtuosity, have become rooted in contemporary architectural practice. Curiously, sound and spatialised sound have become prominent infiltrators in this architectural laboratory, following the example of the Philips Pavilion in Brussels. Writings and discussions of Xenakis’ work for the Le Corbusier pavilion have established the Philips Pavilion with an almost mythical status. Its sound projection of Varèse’s Poème Électronique and Xenakis’ sound work Interlude Sonore, subsequently titled Concret PH, featured during the audiences’ entrance to and exit from the pavilion, the pavilion’s sonic and multi-media experience, and particularly the technologies used to create its postwar technical wonder, continue to intrigue; despite our inability to experience the work or to understand our own response to it following its demolition in 1959. But the work has left a thread of an idea that has remained with us; the potential to combine and potentially unify architectural, sonic and visual experiences. As technologies and practice in the field have developed since 1958, we now look towards a future where greater and more complex control of sound may begin to rival the architectural substance of the pavilion, and perhaps a shift towards the realization of Varèse, Stockhausen and many other composers’ visions of true spatial music; an architecture of sound alone. There are also experiential dimensions within current spatial audio practices and, through the use of spatial audio technologies, questions about the nature of our spatial perception and our engagement with space and sound art are beginning to emerge. Audio that can reproduce sophisticated, polyphonic and perceptually “believable” sound environments has the potential to introduce convincing representations of remote sound environments, to generate superpositions of space, or to create powerfully convincing sound field reproductions that might lead our perception beyond architectural delineations of space. This perceptual space, apprehended through sound alone, can juxtapose inside and outside-spaces, allow listeners to move through a work of spatial music as they wish, to explore the audio constituents of a work for themselves in the same way that they might explore a physical architectural construction. A number of architects and sound artists have sought to integrate spatial constructions of sound, light and structural form following the model of the Philips Pavilion, often striving for a holistic observer experience. As one might expect within the early twenty-first century’s zeitgeist of conceptual, poststructural and environmentally focused artistic themes, the unification of architectural and audio space has taken many directions away from the goals of Varèse, Xenakis and Le Corbusier, but their approach still permeates the discipline. The concept of a sound pavilion moves beyond theatres, the cinema or notionally “immersive” virtual environments. It has become an experiential space where artists often strive to dissolve the dividing lines between disciplines; it blurs distinctions between what might constitute a work of architecture, sound art, spatial music, a designed environment, a performance, a sound installation or simply a framing or re-presentation of our experience of the world per se through sound. The following text highlights works that have taken forward the concept of the sound pavilion. It discusses current practices along with the impact and potential of technological developments for sound projection and architecture. The text discusses links between architectural space and contemporary sound art, audio evolutions from the sound pavilion’s modernist starting points towards contemporary focuses on materiality and experiential work in audio, and themes that have emerged from more than fifty years of sound pavilion practice.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects : Music
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Myatt, At.myatt@surrey.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Date : 8 September 2017
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 May 2017 15:39
Last Modified : 18 May 2017 13:14
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/821102

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