Audio Art Examples

4′33″ (pronounced “four minutes, thirty-three seconds” or just “four thirty-three”)[1] is a three-movement composition[2][3] by American experimentalcomposer John Cage. It was composed in 1952, for any instrument or combination of instruments, and the score instructs performers not to play their instruments during the entire duration of the piece throughout the three movements. The piece consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed,[4] although it is commonly perceived as “four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence“.[5][6] The title of the piece refers to the total length in minutes and seconds of a given performance, 4′33″ being the total length of the first public performance.[7] (From Wikipedia)

Emeka Ogboh:

Song of the Germans

The Song of the Germans is a sound installation by Berlin based, Nigerian Artist Emeka Ogboh for the 2015 Venice Biennale. He recorded the German national anthem in 10 different African languages (Ibo, Yorouba, Bamoun, More, Twi, Ewondo, Sango, Douala, Kikongo and Lingala). This is then played continuously, with a new arrangement each time: one singer starts the piece, then the others joining in at different points in the song, building up to the full choir.

Each singer was on a separate speaker, set at the head height of the singer. There was the really nice effect of a voice being revealed as you walked closer to a speaker. Text from:

Janet Cardiff:

Lost in the Memory Palace:

40 Part Motet:

Alter Banhof (Video) walk:

Christian Marclay:

A preface: a young Marclay was a resident at Artpace in 1999. At that point he came in from New York City, about one year after James Byrd Jr., a 49 year-old black man, was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas by three white supremacists. Back then, Clinton was in the White House, cell phones only made phone calls, social media was in its infancy, and the appalling crime was major world news. Perhaps the whole idea of Texas unsettled Marclay.

As far as I know, there is no photograph or video of Byrd’s murder, and my sense after watching Guitar Drag is that Marclay (not an artist known for warm or gushy work), made the work in November 1999 in an attempt to bear witness to Byrd’s death. There’s no use in talking about whether the video is “successful” or not under some kind of formal criteria, but rather: does it take you where Marclay is asking you to go, with him, to that country road in Jasper, to the truck, to the endless stretch of asphalt, to the scene of the crime? It does. It’s excruciating, graphic, and exhausting.

Even if Marclay originally aspired to multi-layered meaning in the work, Guitar Drag’s direct extended metaphor of a very real murder pulls the viewer, with immediacy, into an endurance test: by watching the video beginning to end, we’re forced to consider (at length) the unthinkable. In this way, the video surrenders its status as an art form and serves instead as a testament. Put simply, Marclay reconstructs the last thirteen minutes of Byrd’s life by dragging a screeching Fender Stratocaster behind a truck, in the place of the dying man, and filming it. The video is a nightmare. It will ruin your day, and you can count yourself lucky that that’s the worst it can do.

The video is chronological and shot in real time: Marclay has an old Trace Elliot amplifier strapped into the bed of the truck; he takes his time knotting a rope around the guitar’s neck (the rednecks used chains on Byrd), plugs it in to the amp, and duct tapes the cord onto the guitar. He lays the guitar on the dirt ten feet behind the trailer hitch, climbs into the truck and starts driving. There are several cameras in play (some mounted on the truck, some cameras are with unseen drivers in cars that follow and drive alongside the truck; the edit features multiple points of view). The guitar starts screaming immediately—a wailing feedback that sounds part human, part cat, and part horror-movie score. It’s loud and relentless. The sound alone is half the piece, maybe more.

Then there’s the drive itself. As you watch the video you can only think of Byrd’s terror and anguish. It is absolutely staggering that three men willfully drove that truck for thirteen minutes dragging a person behind it, for two miles, until his decapitation when he bounced through a trench. The solid-body guitar withstands more abuse in the beginning than any flesh and blood could, but this illustrated reimagining makes it crystal clear just how devastating being dragged to death would be; how quickly the skin breaks open and gives way to raw bone, the skull cracks, the limbs disintegrate: this is a flaying, lynching, scalping, burning, and drawn-and-quartering death, all in one. By minute two you and the guitar are done… but the drive goes on and on, and gets worse: the truck transitions from winding over weeds and gravel to a two-lane blacktop, where it speeds up (a lot) and the guitar bounces and fishtails convulsively, on and on. A helpless despair sets in.


Guitar Drag wasn’t screened at Artpace when Marclay was a resident; he shot it near the end of his session and still had to edit it. (If you want to read something about how meticulous he is about editing, here’s an excellent piece about the making of “The Clock.”) And I wonder what role the political time played in the delay. Since Obama was elected president and Trayvon Martin was murdered, it seems we’ve entered a new era of civil rights battles, with a fresh piece of bad news every week and right-wing pundits dog-whistling themselves into a froth. In this sense, the screening of Guitar Drag feels well-timed. Sixteen years on, hate crimes of great magnitude are far from over, and we should bear witness. Text from Glasstire


Guitar Drag:

Kelly Mark:


Marla Hlady:

Basement Base:


Basement Bass was part of the exhibition Volume: Hear Here at Justina M. Barnicke Gallery.

A rotating floor has been turned into a bass speaker. The sound is the bass end of a field recording from the sub basement of the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery–the droning room-scaled fans, humming air vents, gurgling and spurting water of the boiler system, etc. When a viewer stands on the floor, they feel the sound as much as they hear it.  (From

Dot-matrix Sympthony, The User

The artist creates scores to be interpreted (played) by old technologies – Dot Matrix printers:

Synth Loops, Christian Bok

The artist uses techniques and references from experimental writing and performances of sound-based texts:


Daniel Olson, Thumbrolley

The artist manipulates toy musical instruments:

Piss Record, Matthew Sawyer

The artist documents (and embellishes)  his morning pissing:

Pipes in “C”, Anna Ripmeester

This artist had a noisy pipe in her apartment and noticed it was a tone in the key of C. She decided to jam with it – in the key of C:

Jonathan Monk, My Mother Cleaning My Father’s Piano

The artist finds a found composition at his parent’s house:

One Minute Apology, Laurel Woodcock

Artist is using a record to re-mix a song, with a persistent and unrelenting message:

A Day in the Life (24 hour version), Dave Dyment

The artist slows down the Beatles Song “A Day in the Life” to literally last a full day: 

Brian Joseph Davis, Voice Over

The artist explores and re-performs voice-overs in a relentless disconnected  list that makes them all sound totally intense and absurd:

I’m Practicing My Cartoon Voices, Steve Reinke

student-aaron mora onamatapeia

Listen to these student interpretations of the assignment below: 

O’ Canada Kazoo’d – Maddy Cohen 2023

Lee Walton: From a project where the artist compiles the middle C note sound (and video image)  from everyone’s piano. Even though it’s the same note – the C’s are amazingly diverse: 


UBU WEB: Listen to several examples of pieces, and see if you can determine the ideas that may have prompted the works.

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