It wasn’t that Stephan Moore made a sudden leap from traditional composition into computer-made music. He found his way there step by step: the classically trained musician had an interest in both computer programming and improvised music, which led him to start using computers as an instrument once that sort of technology came around in the ’90s. Then he started pushing the limits of that tech, exploring its capabilities, and finding them much to his liking.
“You start realizing: I can actually create situations where the computer does this on its own,” Moore says during a phone call. “I teach it some rules, and maybe I create a system it can work within, and maybe behaviours will emerge from that system. Or maybe I give it some access to the outside world in the form of sensors of some kind; I let it see how much light there is, or let it listen to the space that it’s in, and try and respond to what it’s hearing.”
That sort of system of composition fits into what’s called sound art, something Moore’s been focused on making for years now. And in Exhibiting Sound, going up at dc3 Art Projects, he will showcase some of his works alongside four other sound artists, all exploring the show’s title cause: how can sound be considered as a type of gallery art? How can it be shown in that sort of space?
The works in Exhibiting Sound will explore those questions in myriad ways: some aural, some silent—Moore’s contributions will actually be the latter this time around. While some of the show’s other works—by Courtney Brown, Sharif Razzaque, Marla Hlady and Eleanor King—will play with ideas in more auditory ways, he’s bringing images of the sound code he uses to generate compositions, to be displayed as a standalone work.
“It’s actually sound code being shown as visual art,” Moore says. “You can look at it, and if you understand the language, you can probably understand some of what’s going on in it, and even if you don’t understand the language at all, you can look at it and you can start to see relationships between the objects, and kind of come up with a guess for what sort of sounds it might make, or how it might work.
“I think you can listen to it and understand the flow of the sound in one way, or you can look at it and have this whole other access to the process,” he continues. “I think the two things become complementary to one another, and I think it becomes really interesting to enter the piece through both directions, and see how that changes it.”
For Moore’s part, creating under the banner of “sound art” helps him reframe how he conceptualizes the work he’s making, and the questions he asks himself as he goes about it.
“When you start to think of it as sound art and not music, all of a sudden you start to realize some of the blinders that the world of working in music—at least for me, as a Conservatory student—had had, and how [with] the frame of sound art, I was able to get around some of those,” he says. “I feel like with music, I’m always thinking about voicing and orchestration, and counterpoint, and chord progressions. Interplay of melodic figures; the various aspects, the nuts and bolts of composition. It’s very inward-looking. With sound art, it’s not that I totally forsake those things. But all of a sudden I’m thinking about, ‘What’s the room I’m in? How are people entering that room? What is the lighting like? How is the sound occupying this space? How does the sound feel if it’s coming from this direction rather than that direction?’ A whole range of questions that are outside of the typical composer’s realm, that were, to me, very exciting questions, and questions that sound art really invited me to dig into.”
Until Sat, Nov 14
dc3 Art Projects
Fri, Oct 30 – Sun, Nov 1
Exhibiting Sound conference