From the mid-twentieth century into the twenty-first, artists and musicians manipulated, cracked, and broke audio media technologies to produce novel sounds and performances. Artists and musicians, including John Cage, Nam June Paik, Yasunao Tone, and Oval, pulled apart both playback devices (phonographs and compact disc players) and the recorded media (vinyl records and compact discs) to create an extended sound palette. In Cracked Media, Caleb Kelly explores how the deliberate utilization of the normally undesirable (a crack, a break) has become the site of productive creation. Cracked media, Kelly writes, slides across disciplines, through music, sound, and noise. Cracked media encompasses everything from Cage's silences and indeterminacies, to Paik's often humorous tape works, to the cold and clean sounds of digital glitch in the work of Tone and Oval. Kelly offers a detailed historical account of these practices, arguing that they can be read as precursors to contemporary new media.
Kelly looks at the nature of recording technology and the music industry in relation to the crack and the break, and discusses the various manifestations of noise, concluding that neither theories of recording nor theories of noise offer an adequate framework for understanding cracked media. Connecting the historical avant-garde to modern-day turntablism, and predigital destructive techniques to the digital ticks, pops, and clicks of the glitch, Kelly proposes new media theorizations of cracked media that focus on materiality and the everyday.
The "sonic turn" in recent art reflects a wider cultural awareness that sight no longer dominates our perception or understanding of contemporary reality. The background buzz of myriad mechanically reproduced sounds increasingly mediates our lives. Tuning into this incessant auditory stimulus, some of our most influential artists have investigated the corporeal, cultural, and political resonance of sound.
In tandem with recent experimental music and technology, art has opened up to hitherto excluded dimensions of noise, silence, and the act of listening. Artists working with sound have engaged in new forms of aesthetic encounter with the city and nature, the everyday and cultural otherness, technological effects and psychological states.
New perspectives on sound have generated a wave of scholarship in musicology, cultural studies, and the social sciences. But the equally important rise of sound in the arts since 1960 has so far been sparsely documented. This volume is the first sourcebook to provide, through original critical writings and artists’ statements, a genealogy of sonic pathways into the arts, philosophical reflections on the meanings of noise and silence, dialogues between art and music, investigations of the role of listening and acoustic space, and a comprehensive survey of sound works by international artists from the avant-garde era to the present.