The art of listening

Video didn’t kill the radio star, and the Internet has allowed it to develop and renew. Radio broadcasting online is now common, and on demand listening (including podcasting) ubiquitous. Online archives make available new and historical sound recordings as digital files which can easily and conveniently be listened to via a computer or a range of mobile devices. Interviews, talks, lectures, reviews, sound art, sound poetry, performance, contemporary music and other audio material is available from an enormous range of sources, including many in the arts sector. Here is a selection of some of these, with an emphasis on primary materials and recent developments.


Museums and galleries

Many museums and galleries offer audio resources on demand, and some have developed their own radio stations. Tate podcasts include audio tours, interviews and recordings of talks and discussions. It also hosts an archive of selected recordings from ‘Audio Arts’, the seminal audiocassette magazine established by Bill Furlong in 1973. V&A, pioneer of museum podcasts in the UK, has a large online archive, while the National Gallery and Baltic currently produce monthly ones, and Cornerhouse, weekly. MOMA’s impressive audio archive includes interviews, poetry, performance, music, lectures and symposia (for instance, the entire Contemporary Artists’ Books Conference 2009!). The Hirshhorn Museum’s archive of lectures is also of interest. MACBA has a web radio created to explore the possibilities of the medium within the context of contemporary art exhibiting.



Audio Arts


National Gallery




Hirshhorn Museum



SoundFjord, a London artist-run gallery (opened in July 2010) dedicated to Sound art, has a website full of useful information and several collections of audio files. Sound and Music’s website (SAM is a Contemporary music and Sound art agency funded by ACE) is also a source of much information, including a monthly ‘New Departures’ podcast. Frieze Art Fair also makes recordings of lectures, talks and other events available online.



Sound and Music

Frieze Art Fair


Magazines and radios

Art magazines have also taken advantage of the possibilities of the Internet to publish multimedia content. ‘Art Monthly’ makes available online several series of talks (Talk Show, Talking Art at Tate Modern and Roadshow), the most recent Dave Beech and Larne Abse Gogarty discussing ugliness. ‘Art Review’ has also a small selection of audio files on its website, including Charlie Woolley Radio Show.


Art Monthly

Art Review


Wire’, the contemporary music magazine, includes in their listings a category for online radio, a useful starting point. Resonance is a London-based station (FM, online streaming and on demand) run by the London Musicians’ Collective, an example of ‘radio art’ with an extraordinary programme covering art and community activities. AIR, Art International Radio (based at the Clocktower Gallery in New York, and successor to Art Radio has a very strong focus on contemporary art, and archives (including those of worth exploring in depth. The BBC online archive is another source of radio recordings (some of these included in collections like Francis Bacon at the BBC, Henry Moore at the BBC, or British Sculptors).


Wire: Online radio


Art on air



Blogs and directories

A number of blogs specialise on audio podcasts related to art, including Art a Go Go, Art Cast, and Bad at Sports. Vernissage TV is primarily devoted to video podcasts, with a great range of interviews, talks and other material, as is TED talks. The Culture section of The Guardian newspaper also offers a number of art & design audio podcasts online.


Art a Go Go

Art Cast

Bad at Sports

Vernissage TV


The Guardian and Podcast Shuffle are directories to this type material. Advice on searching for sound resources online is available from JISC, including a review of audio search engines. Europeana, a digital library of more than 15 million items from European libraries, archives and museums, allows search by format (e.g. sound).

Podcast Shuffle

JISC Audio



Collections and archives

A number of large collections of audio recordings are available online, with a few specialising in art. The Internet Archive’s Audio library contains over 200,000 free digital recordings, including music, radio programmes, audio books, talks and interviews. The Audio Books section of the Open Culture portal has a growing selection of free titles, from Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’ to Marx and Engel’s ‘Communist Manifesto’. UbuWeb: Sound, originally focusing on Sound Poetry, has grown to several hundred recordings encompassing all types of modern and contemporary sound art, much of it significant and important but not easily available elsewhere.


Internet Archive Audio

Open Culture Audio Books

UbuWeb: Sound


The Oral History Interviews, part of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, is a growing collection of recordings of interviews with US artists (1958-). Transcripts of some interviews have been digitised and are available on its website. Voices in the Visual Arts (VIVA), an oral history project launched in 2004 by Dr. Linda Sandino at Camberwell College of Arts, covers similar territory for the UK, albeit on a more limited scale. VIVA recordings are available online.


Oral History Interviews



The British Library Archival Sound Recordings is a collection of nearly 50,000 recordings (some of the content available only to UK Higher Education institutions). Among these are art, photography and architecture interviews, all recorded since 1990, featuring personal memories and reflections of individual artists, and ICA talks (1981-1994). The Sound Recordings Blog, written by BL Sound Archive staff, is a useful source of information and comment. Other educational databases featuring sound recordings, particularly radio, are Film and Sound, and BUFVC Independent Radio (1973-1996). Pidgeon Digital is a subscription service that provides access to a series of illustrated talks by architects started in 1979 by the late Monica Pidgeon. LensWork is a collection of more than 600 podcasts (2004-) relating to photography, freely available online.


British Library Archival Sound Recordings

Sound Recordings Blog

Film and Sound

BUFVC Independent Radio

Pidgeon Digital





[Grandal Montero, G. (2011) Resources online: The art of listening. ARLIS News-sheet, no. 211, May-June pp. 3-4.]


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