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New Publication: Site Responsive Sonic Art

From Site-specific to Site-responsive: Sound art performances as participatory milieu

Lauren Hayes


This article concerns context-based live electronic music, specifically performances which occur in response to a particular location or space. I outline a set of practices which can be more accurately described as site-responsive, rather than site-specific. I develop a methodological framework for site-responsive live electronic music in three stages. First, I discuss the ambiguity of the term site-specific by drawing on its origins within the visual arts and providing examples of how it has been used within sound art. I then suggest that site-responsive performance might be a more helpful way of describing this type of activity. I argue that it affords an opportunity for music to mediate the social, drawing on Small’s idea of music as sets of third-order relationships, and Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics. Third, I suggest that with the current renewed trend for performances occurring outside of cultural institutions, it is important to be mindful of the identity of a particular site, and those who have a cultural connection to it. I make reference to a series of works within my own creative practice which have explored these ideas.

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