Skip to Content
Background noise: perspectives on sound art

Background noise: perspectives on sound art

LaBelle, Brandon, author

This title sets out an historical overview of the rise of a prominent auditory culture. It describes the dynamics of art operating spatially, through media of reproduction and broadcast, and in relation to the intensities of communication and its contextual framework

Paperback, Book. English.
Second edition.
Published London: Bloomsbury, 2015
Rate this

Available: Newton Park

  • Newton Park – Two available in Main Collection 709.0407/LAB

    Barcode Shelfmark Loan type Status
    00278498 Main Collection 709.0407/LAB Standard Available
    00278499 Main Collection 709.0407/LAB Standard Available


Statement of responsibility: Brandon LaBelle
ISBN: 1628923520, 9781628923520
Intended audience: Specialized.
Note: Previous edition: New York: Continuum, 2006.
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Physical Description: 336 pages : illustrations (black and white) ; 23 cm
Subject: Performance art.; Art and Design.; Installation art; Sound installations (Art); Sound in art.; Performance art; Sound


  1. Acknowledgements
  2. Preface to the Second Edition
  3. Introduction: Auditory Relations
  4. Fade In
  5. Part 1: 4'33": Sound and Points of Origin
  6. Introduction to Part 1
  7. Sociality of Sound: John Cage and Musical Concepts
  8. Exposing the Sound Object:Musique Concr?te's Sonic Research
  9. Automatic Music: Group Ongaku's Performative Labors
  10. Part 2: Box with the Sound of Its Own Making: From Gags to Sculptural Form
  11. Introduction to Part 2
  12. Rhythms of Chaos: Happenings, Environments, and Fluxus
  13. Minimalist Treatments: La Monte Young and Robert Morris
  14. Conceptualizations:Michael Asher and the Subject of Space
  15. Part 3: I Am Sitting in a Room: Vocal Intensities
  16. Introduction to Part 3
  17. Performing Desire/ Performing Fear: Vito Acconci and the Power Plays of Voice
  18. Finding Oneself: Alvin Lucier and the Phenomenal Voice
  19. Word of Mouth: Christof Migone's Little Manias
  20. Part 4: Public Supply: Buildings, Constructions, and Locational Listening
  21. Introduction to Part 4
  22. Tuning Space:Max Neuhaus and Site-Specific Sound
  23. Other Architectures:Michael Brewster, Maryanne Amacher, and Bernhard Leitner
  24. Composing Intensities: Iannis Xenakis's Multimedia Architectures
  25. Part 5: Soundmarks: Environments and Aural Geography
  26. Introduction to Part 5
  27. Seeking Ursound: Hildegard Westerkamp, Steve Peters, and the Soundscape
  28. Language Games: Yasunao Tone and the Mechanics of Information
  29. Complicating Place: Bill Fontana and Networking the Soundscape
  30. Part 6: Global Strings: Interpersonal and Network Space
  31. Introduction to Part 6
  32. Interactions: Achim Wollscheid's Production of the Local
  33. Global Events: Atau Tanaka and Network as Instrument
  34. Live Streams: Apo33 and Multiplying Place
  35. Fade Out
  36. Conclusion: Auditive Pivot
  37. Appendix: Peripheries - subnature, phantom memory, and dirty listening
  38. List of Works Cited
  39. Index

Author note

Brandon LaBelle is an artist and writer working with sound culture and locational identities. His previous book, Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art, was published in 2006 by Bloomsbury Academic. He is the editor of Errant Bodies Press and organizer of the related Surface Tension project. He is currently Professor at the National Academy of the Arts in Bergen, Norway.


The rise of a prominent auditory culture, as seen in the recent plethora of art exhibitions on sound art, in conjunction with academic programs dedicated to "aural culture", sonic art, and auditory issues now emerging, reveals the degree to which sound art is lending definition to the 21st Century. And yet sound art still lacks related literature to compliment, and expand, the realm of practice. Written by The Wire's contributor Brandon Labelle, Background Noise sets out an historical overview, while at the same time shaping that history according to what sound art reveals-the dynamics of art to operate spatially, through media of reproduction and broadcast, and in relation to the intensities of communication and its contextual framework.
The Wire 2010||Background Noise follows the development of sound as an artistic medium and illustrates how sound is put to use within modes of composition, installation, and performance. While chronological in its structure, Brandon LaBelle's book is informed by spatial thinking - weaving architecture, environments, and the specifics of location into the work of sound, with the aim of formulating an expansive history and understanding of sound art.||Reading Background Noise for the first time introduced me to the world of sound art, to its rich history, its incredible variety of concrete works, its overview of artists working in the field, and its discourses. It taught me how to think about sound in relation to space instead of time. Now, some seven years later, Background Noise is still one of my most important sources. It is a must-read for anyone interested in auditory culture and sound art.
Marcel Cobussen is editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sonic Studies and co-editor of The Routledge So||There are stones here. Stones gathered with great shrewdness by Brandon LaBelle from the broad shore of relational artistic practice; each carries the weight of its own historical significance; each is perfectly shaped to deliver its conceptual impact; each is thrown outwards in just the right sequence and with just the right trajectory to set the ripples running, producing patterns that continue to inspire the reader long, long after the momentum of the book has come to rest. Background Noise is the very best of books: as reverberant as the phenomena it so beautifully articulates.
Angus Carlyle, Professor of Sound and Landscape, University of the Arts London, UK