Melintas Bunyi

Melintas Bunyi / Tracking Sound

Listening is indeed a physical experience. In 2017, I held an exhition titled Sebelum gendang (Before the drum) at Kedai Kebun Forum. Through that solo, I wanted to present several experiments in observing the physicalities of sound with different forms. In 2018, I did another solo at Cemeti — Institute for Art and Society titled ~IIINNNGGG~ in which I questioned: Is sound a matter? Does sound matter? I deliberately pose these questions in English because of this double entendre. Also because this question sounds simple while at the same time, complicated seeing the word matter has multiple meanings. The word can mean ‘a material’ or ‘a substance’ that is distinct from mind or spirit; as well as ‘holding important or significance’. Other than exhibiting new works, I also worked with friends from Masjid Jendral Sudirman (General Sudirman Mosque) in holding a series of pengajian (studies). Below is an excerpt of my session, Ngaji Bunyi #1:


[Excerpt begin] From a physics perspective we can assume the conclusion that sound is energy, not matter. In physics, we know the law of energy conservation that states energy cannot be created or destroyed but instead can transfer from one form of energy to another. Like electricity produced from sun, wind, steam, gas etc. So its possible to use sound to create electricity – sound energy. [Not much longer, electricity became the foundation of sound amplification devices – we now call them as speakers or sort.]

So amplification has become a subject of debate in music circle. Because its often viewed as a type of threat to the purity of human expression and the view that talent or genius is innate. Firstly, amplification creates a distance between human and sound. Secondly, amplification is seen to mask human inability – or the lack of musical technique. It also takes over the human voice, and automatically takes command over its expression, emotion and subjectivity. Voice becomes an appendage, like a prosthesis mediated by a machine and destabilising the meaning and reality or authenticity of our voice. What we hear is the air vibrating after being electronically processed making sound material and becoming something entirely new to our bodies.

Could we refer to it as a sound object? On May 15, 1948, an announcement was made by a composer, writer, engineer, theorist and philosopher by the name of Pierre Schaeffer who was working as an engineer at Radio France, Paris:

I have coined the term musique concrète for this commitment to compose with materials taken from ‘given’ experimental sound in order to emphasize our dependence, no longer on preconceived sound abstractions, but on sound fragments that exist in reality and that are considered as discrete and complete sound objects …

Musique Concrete – meaning real music. True music. Not music made from concrete. Because even if we make music from concrete, but it’s not about music made of concrete, but about true music – so what do we mean by true music? What was music before it if it wasn’t true? This type of music was produced using a combination of a number of voice recordings which at that time used a cassette tape, were cut, stacked, distorted, the speed was changed, or played backwards and edited into a montage. But for Schaeffer, the music isn’t about the train or the whistle, it’s about sound. To him, this about listening to sounds in a completely new way. Separating sounds from the context they were created. This is what he calls Acousmatic, which means sound that is separated from its original source. Well, it’s in the process of separating. If authenticity was deemed to be compromised by the onset of electric with the prescence of recording technology, sound would be separated from the context in which the sound was created. [Excerpt end]


During the preparation of this exhibition, I found this article of composer Slamet Abdul Sjukur that I am refering here. In his proposal for a definition of contemporary music, he explored the dynamics of musical genres for almost a century. Much like the first half of my session, Ngaji Bunyi #1, where I was tracking art practices that depart from sound exploration. We both began with Futurism and, later on, continued to Shaeffer. This article convinced me that exploring practices that have been done before my time is natural and healthy. This exhibition is an articulation of such tracking. Particularly on multi-disciplinary practices that have some sort of presence within the gallery as the one of the main stages for (visual) art around me, in Jogja, in Medan, in Solo, in Surabaya, in Bandung, in Jakarta. I am also presenting the resources that had become some sort of a foundation for my (artistic) decisions, with the hope that these things can inspire another reading.

Solo Exhibition at RUBANAH Underground Hub
27 April 2019 – 18 May 2019