The Art of Sound

The Intersections between sound and visual art
 Beth Taylor

The Art of Sound collaborative project between the NFSA and selected regional art galleries examines the intersections between sound and the visual arts.


It was inspired by the NFSA’s mandate to share its audiovisual collection with the people of Australia through touring projects, film festivals, screenings and exhibitions.

NFSA curators compiled a sound palette for the project – a package of Australian recordings that represent the breadth and diversity of the sound collection. The palette includes songs, speeches, experimental works, spoken word, orchestral compositions and environmental recordings.

NFSA then partnered with regional art galleries to create four Art of Sound exhibitions around Australia:

  • Grafton Regional Gallery in northern NSW (23 January – 13 February 2013)
  • Holmes à Court Gallery at Vasse Felix in Margaret River, WA (9 June – 15 September 2013)
  • Caboolture Regional Art Gallery in Queensland (19 October – 14 December 2013)
  • Burnie Regional Art Gallery in Tasmania (9 May – 29 June 2014).

As part of each unique exhibition, gallery curators paired sound recordings from the palette with selected artworks from their collection. Below is one pairing from each exhibition.


Grafton Regional Gallery
Rona Green, Hud and Mugsy (2008), linocut, watercolour and ink on paper. Courtesy the artist and Grafton Regional Gallery.

‘Clown Prince’ — Hilltop Hoods (2006)

Courtesy Hilltop Hoods and Blue Max Music Pty Ltd.

Hilltop Hoods members MC Suffa and MC Pressure first met at Blackwood High School in Adelaide in the early 1990s. Their 2006 single ‘Clown Prince’ entered the ARIA singles chart, and the album The Hard Road debuted at number one on the album chart. It went on to become their second platinum album.

Warning: medium coarse language


Holmes à Court Gallery
Keizo Ushio, Oushi Zokei 2004 (2004), acrylic paint on granite. Courtesy Keizo Ushio

‘Boyd River Crossing’ — David Lumsdaine (1996)

Courtesy David Lumsdaine.

Produced by the Alpine Centre for Bioacoustic Studies (CEBA), this recording is a detailed sonic illustration of NSW native wildlife including frogs, magpies, kookaburras and Red Wattlebirds.


Caboolture Regional Art Gallery
John Brigden, Still Life Lunch (2008), oil on canvas. Courtesy John Brigden

‘Australian Child Speaking’ — Unknown voice (circa 1960s)

From The Australian Voice, produced by the Sound Heritage Association Ltd.

A young boy speaks about surfing beaches in his area.


Burnie Regional Art Gallery
James Gleeson, Prometheus III (1980), lithograph, 68 × 48 cm. Courtesy of the Gleeson O'Keefe Foundation

‘Horror Movie’ — Skyhooks (1974)

Mushroom L35299

Courtesy Liberation Music and Warner Music Australia.

This iconic ’70s song is from the debut album by Melbourne band Skyhooks that took Australia by storm. In 1975, soon after the devastating Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin, the band was dubbed ‘Cyclone Skyhooks’. At a time when the standard uniform of Australian musicians was blue jeans and long hair, Skyhooks brought a splash of colour onto the scene. Sometimes described as camp rock, glitter rock or even revolutionary theatre rock, they delighted in appearing in gender-bending outfits and singing about sex, drugs and rebellion. With playful and incisive lyrics peppered with references to their hometown Melbourne, their songs spoke of what it was to be growing up in the suburbs of Australia in the 1970s.


Project Coordinator

Brendan Smith

Manager, Regional Programs

Sound Installation and Exhibition Specialist

James Hurley

Manager, MediaLab

University of Technology, Sydney

The Art of Sound was supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.

Collection of logos from participating sponsors and venues