dedicated webite (german)

Here you´ll find a summary of my research conducted for my PhD in Systematic Musicology by the Hamburg University. The study describes different aspects of sound installation art, such as history, technolgy or philosophy. Soundartist are interviewed and they ouline their intention and motivations. In an empirical study within the sound installation nanutek the participant´s experience is statistically analysed in order to find answers to questions like: Are sonic atmospheres perceived in a common manner? Do the recipients verbal descriptions of the emotional impact match the artists intention and expectations? Is there proof of some sort of atmospheric communication between audience and artist?

The (german language) dissertation was published as Book in 2014.



For about 40 years we encounter a new artistic genre in the borderland of music and fine arts: sound installation art. The roots of the contemporary sound installation art can be traced back to the avantgardistic movements of the beginning of the 20th century. Different developments can be identified, running like a golden thread through the past century and thereby leading to a new musical and artistic thinking and the new artistic self-conception of the present. The rapid advance in technology and their wide accessibility play an important role in these developments.

The change of the conception of material in the fine arts as in music can be seen as constitutive for the uprising of the new artistic genre: In the 20th century sound is not only used by musicians and composers but it is utilized by artist as sculptural matter to shape spaces such as galleries or public places. From musical point of view this development changes the conception of music as temporal based art towards a practice of sound art, where spacial aspects dominate the development in time. In sound installation art time plays a subsidiary role, there is no beginning nor an end, there is no obligatory temporal development such as a musical dramaturgy, as it is characteristic for traditional forms of music.

The artist´s withdrawal from situation the performance brings a altered role for the audience. The recipients of sound installations are no longer passive consumers but they become protagonists of their own experience, sometimes given the possibility to interact with the artwork.

A central aspect of sound installations can be seen in the establishing acoustical atmospheres that constitute the perception of the location and effect the individual feelings. The concept of the atmosphere, as introduced into aesthetic theory by the german philosopher Gernot Böhme, forms a key function in the examination of sound installation art.

The goal of this study is to give an overview of diverse aspects that appear to be relevant for the young genre of sound installation art: historical, technological, spacial and aesthetic aspects. By interviewing five active sound artists it is asked for individual artistic strategies, motivations and intentions. Furthermore the aesthetic experience of recipients of sound art is investigated. It is asked how the recipients perceive sound installations and if the artists intention in the sense of the emotional character that is expressed in the sonic atmospheres is understood by the audience. Can we speak of successful communication?  For this purpose an own sound installation was developed and used as stimulus for an exploratory survey, that allows to validate theoretically deduced hypotheses by means of empirical methods.

It can be shown, that the atmosphere was perceived and described relatively homogeneously, and the description matches the artists intended expression to a great extend. Therefore it seems to be justifiable to speak of successful communication in the conducted study. Subjective preferences in arts and music as well as the educational background show an inferior relevance in the process of communication. Nevertheless individual activity in either musical or artistic practice seem to be relevant to the assessment of the atmospheres. The conducted study showed evidence for an statistically significant effect of the sound installation on the mood of the subject group.

Visit the dedicated website (german)