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Paddy Johnson doing her thang! (original image via franceinlondon.co.uk)

Ever caught yourself thinking about what an art space sounds like rather than what it looks like? Perhaps provoked by artists who use sound as their medium or the cavernous qualities of the space art usually inhabits, Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City fame has put together an LP that documents “the last five years of art in the city” through recordings of gallery spaces, collected audio ephemera, and even some guitar thrown in for good measure.

The album’s opening party kicks off this Thursday, November 18 for eight straight hours of remixes by an assortment of bands and artists at Santos’s Party House from 7pm to 3am. See below for the juicy details, plus a Q+A with the brains behind Sound of Art.

Paddy’s record was funded through a momentous Kickstarter initiative that raised over $11,000 for the designing, pressing, and production of The Sound of Art album. The LP itself takes the form of a DJ battle record. That means that it’s not exactly designed to be listened to on its own, rather, the vinyl provides fodder for DJs to spin and remix, grabbing ambient audio, samples, and sound effects to incorporate into their own carefully selected tunes.

The Sound of Art LP is separated into two sides, one Brooklyn, the other Manhattan. Thus the sound battle also becomes a territory battle as the art spaces of the two areas sonically duke it out through respective DJs and bands.

I got in touch with Johnson to get the scoop on the record, and the opening party:

The Sound of Art’s cover (image from artfagcity.com)

Kyle Chayka: There are a ton of bands, sound artists, and musicians that will be spinning the record during the party. How do you think they’ll incorporate the sounds on the album in their different genres and styles?

Paddy Johnson: I have no idea but I’m pretty psyched about everyone. In the early 2000s I used to watch Nick Hallett perform with as part of the Plantains — he was like Andrew Lloyd Weber meets Antony Hegarty — and since he’s promised to integrate vocal work into his performance with the record I think that will be great. Mikey IQ Jones is a master of sampling, so I’m sure he’s going to be great. Dubknowdub describes their shopping cart as a musical instrument and their tour van and Yellow Tears, our headliner is bringing in a pool of water to do I don’t know what. There’s going to be a lot of really wild performances.

KC: The record’s split between Manhattan and Brooklyn sides. Did there turn out to be a big difference in the work collected for the two different areas? Does Brooklyn actually sound any funkier?

PJ: Brooklyn definitely sounds more DIY. That’s the side where we have 100 people hammering nails, a cell phone piano,  and a monkey with cymbals. There’s a little less of that on the Manhattan side, which hosts sounds with slightly higher production values.

KC: How were the art space sounds collected? Did you guys actually traipse into the Guggenheim with stealth mics, or were there official channels to go through to get the samples?

PJ: Ha! Michelle Halabura, Sound of Art’s production manager collected all the sounds. Matt Madly at Think Tank Studios lent us a high-quality recorder with instructions, and Justin Luke and Ted Riederer also advised us. I really had very little to do with this end of the production. Michelle managed almost all of it, though in the end I managed some of the final contract negotiations with [conceptual artist] Lawrence Weiner. We had to sign an agreement with him that we would not release the sounds digitally, and would press no more than 800 records.

KC: Can anyone really rock out to The Sound of Art for eight hours straight? Will there be an Art Fag City dance marathon!?

PJ: The person who rocks out to the David Lynch Eraserhead sound track, will also find many of the tracks on The Sound of Art compelling in that way. Seriously though, the record is really a tool kit for a DJ, musician, or band, which means the finished product isn’t the record itself, but the performances we’ve slated with the record. This Thursday we’re going to see just how far musicians can stretch these sounds. Given the different stages of this project and all the different participants, I think what we’ll experience will be closer to a relay race triathlon.

This is one art DJ battle for the books, though I’m pretty sure the event is unprecedented. If the album’s inherent craziness wasn’t enough, a plethora of musical artists will be incorporating the sounds of art into their own sets, including Yellow Tears, who have previously warped ears at the Whitney, Behavior, an electro-pop band, composer Mikey IQ Jones of Brown Wing Overdrive, Piano Belly, AKA Michael Jurin of Stellastarr*, and indie folk band Corrupt Autopilot.

The Sound of Art debuts on Thursday, November 18th from 7pm to 3am at Santos Party House. More information can be found on the Art Fag City website. You can reserve tickets in advance at the Sound of Art’s event site. The Hyperallergic crew will doubtless be there rockin’ out to the sounds of art, so you should come too.

Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators Project,...