DURING THE WORLD CUP–obsessed summer of 2006, Berlin may have been the epicenter of soccer culture, but for decades it has been the unofficial global capital of sound art, which the city’s institutions have steadfastly and proudly supported. In 1980, the Akademie der Künste presented “Für Augen und Ohren” (For Eyes and Ears), a landmark exhibition that provided a historical backdrop for the emergence of sound art as a distinct category and introduced a generation of artists for whom sound was the primary medium. Berlin’s commercial galleries have been friendly to sound since the late ’70s, when Rolf Langebartels opened Galerie Giannozzo in the Charlottenburg district. (This tradition is continued today by Carsten Seiffarth’s Singuhr-Hörgalerie, still one of the very few spaces in the world dedicated exclusively to sound installation.) However, prior to this past summer, the most significant event hosted by this sound-art center was “Sonambiente 1996,” a multivenue exhibition curated by Matthias Osterwold, Georg Weckwerth, and Christian Kneisel and named after the American designer Harry Bertoia’s sound-sculpture studio. Taking place amid Berlin’s flurry of post-wall reconstruction, the festival assembled a who’s who of European and American audio artists and helped to launch the sound-art boom of the past decade.

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