“Every Sound You Can Imagine”

REVIEW Art is in the air at City Hall, thanks to Bill Fontana’s "Spiraling Echoes" installation. In contrast, an ambitious exhibition at New Langton Arts explores the visual properties of musical pieces. Curated by Artforum contributor Christoph Cox, "Every Sound You Can Imagine" is rife with inkjet or offset prints of compositions — Morton Subotnick’s smudgy pencil jottings are an exception. A hefty percentage of works avoid standard notation to create sight-based sonic suggestions. To glean from just one small segment or wall, devoted to late-1990s works: Ryoji Ikeda’s Variations for Modulated 440hz Sinewaves is wonderfully nauseating in its op art effect, the score for Signal’s Lines conjures clouds in the sky, and William Basinski’s Shortwavemusic suggests the jagged lines of a seismograph or Richter scale.

These works are strictly black-and-white, but Cox’s survey contains many small rainbows of playful pencil and Magic Marker musicality. Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Cosmic Pulses isn’t alone in its crayon radiance — Jim Hodge’s Sea of Love, Leon Kirschner’s Study for "String Quartet No. 3," Allan Bryant’s Pitch Out, Yasuo Tone’s Ten Haikus of Basho, and John Cage’s Aria (which likens jazz to dark blue and Marlene Dietrich to the color purple) all deploy the color chart as musical chart. Barry Guy’s Witch Gong Game includes felt-tip images of mandalas, pointed stars, graphic diagrams, and moon slivers, while Rainer Wehringer’s responds to Györgi Ligeti’s Artikulation by creating black and brown combs or hair clippers. Kinetic geometric designs — the circles of Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise, the bird flock of check marks that is Cage’s Study for Piano and Orchestra — aren’t far from the graphic potency found in Jonny Trunk’s handsome 2005 monograph of LP covers The Music Library.

Splicing songbooks to fuse Mendelsohn to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the collage aesthetic of Hodges’ A Line Drawn in the Dark is, along with a piece by Steve Roden, one of the more inventive works here. The late Bruce Conner’s Untitled (music) has an effect similar to Will Yackulic’s recent experiments in drawing with a typewriter, while his contemporary, Wallace Berman, mines language and numeric systems. Downstairs, Christian Marclay’s video, Screenplay, sets many of these free-thinking compositional concepts into motion.

EVERY SOUND YOU CAN IMAGINE Through March 28. Tues.–Sat., noon–6 p.m. New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom, SF. (415) 626-5416, www.newlangtonarts.org