Sound: An Exhibition of Sound Sculpture, Instrument Building and Acoustically Tuned Spaces opened at the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art in the summer of 1979 (and was also on view later that year at PS1 in New York). Curated by Bob Wilhite and Robert Smith, the exhibition surveyed the field of sound art. The forty-four participants were painters pivoted toward performance, conceptual artists attracted to time-based mediums, self-styled creators of environments, and musicians (formally trained and otherwise) fashioning new instruments from household items and consumer electronics. They were more or less object-oriented and, at the same time, more or less music-oriented. What brought them all together, as the exhibition catalog gamely asserted, was sculpting in three-dimensional space.
The Sound exhibit included installations, recordings played in the exhibition space and a series of live performances, demonstrating instruments that otherwise rested inert in the gallery. For a broader sense of the show than a single visit provided, the curators also produced a compilation album featuring short pieces, or excerpts from longer works, by many of the participants. (Artists in the exhibition, but not on the LP included Alvin Lucier and Mike Kelley.) Selections from bright lights of the 20th century avant-garde – such as composers Bill Fontana, Yoshi Wada and Paul DeMarinis; conceptual artists and performance artists Terry Fox, Tom Marioni and Jim Pomeroy; experimental vocalist Joan La Barbara; and Los Angeles Free Music Society members Tom Recchion and John Duncan – feature alongside the sounds of Jim Hobart's tuned jars, Ivor Darreg's fretless banjo, Doug Hollis' aeolian harp and Richard Dunlap's rubber bands.