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TONES AND NOISES
 
 
three kinds of soundscape,
one music...





nederlandse versie



OUT OF TONE

'The first and principal difference between various sounds experienced by our ear, is that between noises and musical sounds.'
Hermann Helmholtz

The gesture with which John Cage in 4’ 33’’silenced music and let the sounds of the environment speak, can be regarded as a symbol for a tendency that surfaces time and again, and with increasing stubbornness, from the beginning of the twentieth century onward.

In 1913, with the publication of  'L'arte dei rumori', Russolo announces the production of a whole array of sounds with new instruments that would surpass the rather limited repertoire of the traditional orchestra. Russolo was thinking of instruments driven by an electric motor. Variations in speed would lead to variations in pitch. New impulses came from the development of techniques of sound-recording. Although it was already possible to record sound in Russolo's times, and although wit
h traditional vinyl it was already possible to manipulate sound (loops, cutting off the attack), it was only the introduction of the tape that made it possible to produce all kinds of sounds in a more economic way than building futuristic instruments. Already in 1948, Pierre Schaeffer was dreaming of a kind of sound bank that could be used in the same way as an orchestra (Phonogène, Morphophone). But it is only the electronics that enabled the production of the most diverse sounds without resort to existing materials. Figures like John Cage, Mauricio Kagel, Györgi Ligeti and Luigi Nono also tried to get 'non-musical' sounds out of traditional instruments. And, in the wake of Cages 4' 33'', still others are interested in existing sounds found in the given acoustic environment 'see: Bill Fontana*).

It is as if a countermovement is unleashed against the millennia old endeavour to develop an ever broader array of ever more refined musical instruments to produce tones that cannot be found in nature - as if music, after having conquered step by step
the realm of artificial tones, suddenly felt deceived in such artificial Elysium and let itself glide back in the realm of nature from which it had detached itself with so much effort.

Let us examine what are the consequences of the 'revolt against the tones'...


THE FOUND SOUNDSCAPE

'The soughing, howling, and whistling of the wind, the splashing of the water, the rolling of carriages, are examples of noises…. '
Hermann Helmholtz


Let us first have a look at the extra-musical world to which we have been referred by John Cage, and in which man from way back has been submerged.

It consists, in the first place, of the countless natural soundscapes: the rustling of leaves, the dripping of the rain, the murmuring of the brook, the sound of the surf, the drone of waterfalls, the rumble of volcano's, the howling of the storm wind, the roaring of the thunder. Next, there are the somewhat more 'musical' sounds produced by animals: the chirping of crickets, the quacking of frogs, the howling of wolves, the bleating of sheep, the shrieking of seagulls in the port and the singing of birds in the wood. But, from way back, these sounds are overpowered with the sounds produced by man. In an idyllic past
: the cries of the hawkers in the market,  Bühlers sounds in the workplaces - from the hammering of the blacksmith to the threshing with the flail - the hooves of horses and the barking of dogs, the mooing of cows in the stable, and the ringing of the bells over the city or the drum roll and the clash of arms on the battlefield. But, from the industrial revolution onward, we are surrounded with the more violent successors of these idyllic sounds: the sometimes infernal sounds in factory halls, the drone of the cars in the cities, the ringing of tram bells, the howling of airplanes and the thundering of trains. But foremost new soundscapes are emerging: in the interiors, after the ticking of the clocks and the ringing of the alarm bells, now the humming of refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and washing machines, the ringing of bells and telephones; but especially outdoors where entirely new kinds of soundscapes resound: the fascinating soundscapes in station halls and airports, the applause of the public in a concert hall or the chanting of football fans in a football stadium, train whistles, mist horns, not to mention Marinetti's sounds of the battlefield: the whistling of bullets, the rattle of machine guns, the boom of guns, the wailing of sirens, the drone of bombers and the droning of tanks.

The most salient feature of these soundscapes is the random distribution of the sources of sound over space: think of the countless thunderstrokes on our right, on our left, before us and behind us when we find ourselves in the middle of a storm. While the visual world is rather a kind of scene whereupon we look perspectivally from within the confinement of our body, the sounds of the audible world
surround us: we can also hear the sound behind us, and that goes also for the pattering of the rain on the roof,  the song of the birds in the wood,  the chirping of the crickets in the plains. Furthermore, the objects in aural space are no opaque bodies that hide one another from view: phrased in visual terms, aural space is 'transparent'. Therein resides precisely the magic of the song of the birds in the woods: while our eye stumbles everywhere upon the impenetrable foliage of the forest, sounds come to us from the remotest distance, not hindered by more nearby sounds . And when the bells ring over the city, it is as if an immense space is unfolding behind the facades that enclose us from all sides. Another important difference is that aural space - except for the sound of the surf or the drone of the highway - is discontinuous by nature: it consists of points lighting up from nothingness - silence - like stars from the darkness of the cosmic night, or like luminous fish from the deep sea. In our natural visual world, the objects do not loom up from the dark: rather are they embedded in a continuous visual fabric where behind each object another can be seen. But aural space is foremost discontinuous in the temporal sense, emergent: the natural state of the world is silence, and sound is only an accident of that essence. That is why we do not have 'ear-lids' with which we can withdraw from the aural world as we withdraw form the visual world with our eyelids. Only when some sound becomes audible does aural space emerge, a new world that as it were opens up the visual world, that confines us within the limits of our own visual appearance, reduces us to a minuscule object in the middle of an ocean of other visual objects whose appearance only eclipses ours. Things do not gaze at us, as Merleau Ponty and Lacan will have it, but rather eclipse our appearance. Only the thing or the being that makes itself heard, seems to call upon us, or to address us: the indifferent visual world around us suddenly seems to become inhabited and animated. Just imagine the stars above us not only to twinkle, but also to softly tinkle like little bells: would that icy darkness from those fathomless depths around us not have become more hospitable? In any case, the unfolding of aural space explains why we feel our soul expand when the birds begin to sing around us in the forest - as is so masterly set to music in Wagner's 'Waldweben' (Siegfried). Or why we suddenly feel welcome when we hear the echo of our voice resound in the mountains. Such redoubling of our voice is only the faint echo of the contagious multiplication that is so congenial to the world of sound: a bird never sings alone, and that goes also for the crickets and frogs, for sheep and wolves, the cuckoo and the lion. That is why the audible world is in the first place a world inhabited by countless similar souls and not - the phrasing is appropriate - the speechless presence of indifferent appearances that only eclipse ours.


THE DESIGNED SOUNDSCAPE


Tönend bewegte Formen sind einzig und allein Inhalt und Gegenstand der Musik
Hanslick, Eduard, "Vorn Musikalisch-Schönen"


Back to earth. The found soundscape is only the unintended offspring of the working - or the raging - of the forces of nature, the thriving of animals and the doings of man: it is not deliberaty designed to be listened at. That is why we either experience it as a disturbing factor or as a familiar background.

Of a totally different nature are the soundscapes that are deliberately designed with the explicit intention to silence such disturbing or reassuring backgrounds - or at least to overporwer them: think of the gongs in eastern temples, of the ringing of bells, of the drum roll and the flourish of trumpets that invites us to lay down our work and to stop our conversation - or of the call of the muezzin that prompts the entire community to bow in prayer, not otherwise than the bell in Millet's countryside that rings the Angelus three times a day. In so far as these soundscapes silence the world, they are 4' 33'' on its head: Cage rather wanted the found soundscape to catch our attention.


cage upside down

Precisely because those gongs and bells and trumpets make an overall animated aural space emerge amidst the inhospitable visual world, people more than welcome their resounding: not otherwise than the crowing of the cock, the ringing of the bells is echoed from other neighbourhoods of the city or from other villages in the country, and also the trumpets of the apocalypse are distributed over the four quarters of the compass - which is stylised in the disposition of the musicians and the singers in the four arms of the basilica of Saint Marc in Venice. Thus, a kind of aural architecture is realised: the aural counterpart of the avenues where the community walks in procession, or of the squares and buildings where the community gathers in the visual world. In sharp contrast with visual architecture, that, just like the visible world, is always present, such aural architecture tends to be merely emergent - an epiphany.

The question may be asked why this form or aural architecture or spatiotemporal design - which, judging from the examples is already fairly old - seems to have remained stuck in an rather archaic technological past. To be sure, the mist horns, sirens and train whistles of the industrial age resound louder than the gongs, bells, horns and trumpets from the previous age. And that opens new possibilities: the louder the sources of sound - the acoustic beacons - the wider the horizon of aural space and the larger the scope of a possible aural architecture. But these possibilities have only been worked out for practical purposes: think of the mist horns in ports and sirens over the city and industrial plants. For the time being, we can only dream of an aural architecture where aural beacons would surround us from all sides like the columns in the Alhambra - or of urbanistic projects that would be the aural counterpart of the planning of Paris along the axis from the Louvre to the Arc the Triomphe and further** - on occasion of festivities, only outdated fanfares are still parading over the Champs Elysées. One can imagine the effect of the advent of a computer directed aural space conjured up by powerful high-tec sources of sound extending far outside the urban agglomeration!

Such aural architecture would have to develop according to totally different principles than visual architecture. Visual space is always constructed along axes radiating from a centre: the opaque visual objects that surround us ask for an orienting open view on wide horizons: preferably an axis in front of us, and one to the left and to the right (binocular orientation). Since sounds surround us from all sides, the basic pattern of aural space is not so much the cross (or the cube), as rather a
pattern of concentric circles that surround us like transparent curtains in many layers. In principle, the construction of aural space could be also extended to the vertical dimension. But, although we can conceive of sound sources in the heights - think of  Stockhausen's helicopters or the drone of bomber planes, not to mention bursts of thunder - the countermove to the depth is far more difficult to realise, except on the rather modest scale of - again Stockhausen's - spherical concert hall.

Of course, also counterparts to geometrical design like the aleatoric bursts of thunder could be conceived in natural sites like lakes, deserts, deltas and mountains. On the podiums of our concert halls
, a kind of scale-model of such projects could be heard in 1962: Györgi Ligeti's grandiose ‘Poème symphonique’ for 100 metronomes  - although it is significant that also this creation resorts to the rather archaic metronome. If we would leave the metronomes on the scene, and proceed to distributing more powerful equivalents around the listeners in the real space outside, we would get the prototype of a real 'tönend bewegte Architektur' - to paraphrase Eduard Hanslick: a genuine aural architecture unfolding in time - really, and not just through the movements of the contemplator, as will always be the case in visual architecture.

The reduction in scale should remind us of the fact that there is also something like small scale aural objects (aural 'sculptures'). Here also, we
have to content ourselves with examples from our aristocratic past: think of the splashing of fountains in ornamental gardens, the whistling of real or pneumatic song birds (Villa d'Este), the bells on horses and carriages, and what have you. Only Murray Shäfer, in his book 'The Soundscape', proposes to design a park with different kinds of floors, so that, when it rains, we could walk about amid ever changing sounds - as in a kind of ''tönend bewegter' Carl André, a combination of visual and aural design.


THE MIMETIC SOUNDSCAPE

Of a totally different kind is the soundscape where the sounds are deliberately produced by man, just like those of aural architecture, but not in view of transforming the real word according to our wishes, as rather in view of creating an imaginary world that puts the real world aside: the mimetic soundscape.

From way back, man imitates the sounds of animals. Especially in the theatre, specialised instruments are developed: metal plates to imitate thunder, or discs revolving against cloth to conjure up the wind. In this tradition, Russolo designed instruments to evoke industrial noises. But it is only
the advent of sound recording - aural photography or 'sonography' - that opened the doors to an unlimited expansion. Initially, it was used to reproduce music itself. But soon after the invention of the tape recorder, Pierre Schaeffer made a montage of noises recorded in the Paris railway depot: 'Etude aux chemins de fer' (1949). Using meanwhile further developed techniques, Bill Fontana had the noises from Europe's busiest train station in Cologne resound in the ruins of the former 'Anhalter Bahnhof' in Berlin.

We are dealing here with imitation - mimesis - in the literal sense of the word. Just like a two-dimensional visual image conjures up the tactile dimension of a three-dimensional object, the auditory appearance of an object conjures up the concomitant visual of that object: the call of the owl conjures up its visual presence, the voice in the radio the face of the speaker, the recording of the bells of Rome the image of Saint Peter's square, the chirping of the crickets the Provence - and the noises of Bill Fontana's train station the concomitant platforms and passengers under a huge iron and glass vault in Berlin. 

Not only the sounds of objects and beings can be imitated, but also their distribution or movements in space. In theory, scores of loudspeaker would have to be placed all around
the audience over a given surface. More economic, however, is the combination of the use of the 'aural perspective' (loud = nearby, soft = distant) with a disposition of loudspeakers in a circle around the public - the aural counterpart of the two-dimensional visual image. The number of loudspeakers can be further reduced in that a sound rendered from two loudspeakers simultaneously is heard as coming from in between. The technique is further developed in the so called 'surround sound' in the cinema, where it is mostly used in combination with a real - three-dimensional - rendering of movement: the spacecraft is first moving in real space from the backside to the front, where the movement is taken over by 'aural perspective'. Also the rendering of height and depth is possible in principle, but turns out to be rather complicated, especially in the dimension of depth, just like with aural architecture. 

The fact that it suffices to render the aural appearance to conjure up the concomitant visual appearance only widens the possibilities of conjuring up imaginary beings (completed mimesis) - just think of the Aborigines who conjured up their ghosts with 'bull-roarers' (oval pieces of wood turned around on a cord) to intimidate their initiates. Here also, it is tape recording that turns the light on green. In the beginning, it was used for pure documentary purposes, as in the 'World Soundscape Project' of R. Murray Schafer in the early seventies. But already in the early fifties composers began to manipulate the tape (slowed down or speeded up, loops, cutting), to filter the sounds, to manipulate the recording (contact microphones) and, more recently, the many kind of digital manipulation. The increase of technical possibilities goes hand in hand with the increase of imaginary events in imaginary worlds: it suffices to listen to many a passage from the tape of Stockhausen's 'Kontakte' (1960), realised with the then still primitive techniques. In its turn, the progress in the electronic studios stimulated the search for new sounds produced with traditional instruments (Lechenmann). In many a case, they come to produce sounds that are experienced as the aural appearance of real or imaginary things or beings. Thus, in Ligeti's  'Aventures' (1962), the soprano proceeds to laughing, groaning, hissing, and, in his Sequenza V, Berio has the trombone produce all kinds of anthropomorphic sounds.


MUSIC

..
the tones of all musical instruments are examples of musical sounds.
Hermann Helmholtz.
 

Although many people would not object to call soundscapes 'music', it is less evident
to label Bach's or Beethoven's music as 'soundscapes'. For good reasons: although music conjures up an imaginary world, just like the mimetic soundscape, it does not rely on aural appearances. In his Lied 'The Crow', Schubert does not render the croaking of the crow: he rather gives impulses for her (silent!) flight. While ordinary aural mimesis conjures up a world through rendering aural appearances, music conjures up a world through providing impulses for movement. That explains why music, as opposed to ordinary aural mimesis, preferably evokes silent events or beings. For, not only the wing beat of Shubert's crow, also the swimming of trouts is completely silent, and that holds especially for the inner stirrings of which music is more fond. That explains also why it catches the ear when suddenly, amidst the silent world evoked by music, the call of the cuckoo resounds, not to mention the clap of thunder, as in Beethoven's Pastorale. The particular thing about music is that those impulses for movement are not only rhythms, but tones in the first place, tones that are part of a tonal system that is borrowed from the melody of speech, so that movements are structured in time like sentences, and endowed with expressive modalities, just like the words of language (see 'Music and mimesis').

It is precisely because music is not ordinary aural mimesis, that it preferably uses sounds that do not remind of
something: the sounds from musical instruments with a timbre of their own and producing pure sounds with a fixed pitch: you would not hear such a thing in nature.

It will be apparent now that ordinary aural mimesis and aural architecture are of a totally different nature than music. Let us give an overview:
 

imaginary world real world
art (mimesis)   architecture/design
musical
mimesis
ordinary aural
mimesis
aural reality aural
architecture/design
music mimetic
soundscape (1)
found
soundscape (2)
designed
soundscape (3)


SOUNDS AND NOISE

Let us clear up some possible misunderstandings. We began this essay with pointing to the fact that the development of music in the past century has been governed by the urge to get rid of traditional musical sound and to let ordinary noises come to the foreground. Meanwhile, we know that such strive has inaugurated the development of the new territory of aural mimesis and aural design (of objects or space).

It would be a serious mistake, however, to state that the dividing line between music and ordinary aural mimesis runs where sound
s become noise: also the range of musical means has widened accordingly. When listening to the massive clusters in Ligeti's Volumina or  Atmosphères, we do not have the impression of being confronted with a visual being that produces such noises. Rather do the gliding complexes of sound conjure up the aural counterpart of appearances like those on Rothko's paintings  – magnified into cosmic proportions, and become invisible at that, spiritualised: music is not only the world of silence, but also the world of the invisible. No traditional tones, hence, in Atmosphères, although this is certainly music! That does not mean that clusters - or tones - are always music. In Nono's Quando Stanno Morendo, the scordatura of the four strings of the cello tuned on a half tone above, a half tone below, and a quarter tone from the f, produce, together with the filters, a infernal industrial sound, of which Russolo could only dream. No music here, rather pure aural mimesis....

The question,
then, is not so much whether we are dealing with tones or noises, but rather whether sounds are experienced as aural appearances of things that are also visible. Decisive is the recognisability of the sounds. In Stockhausen's Kontakte, many sounds on the tape resemble existing sounds - those of engines, especially when they move up and down in glissandos, as when somebody were playing with the accelerator pedal. When, on top of that, they also begin to move in space from one loudspeaker to the other, we cannot help being reminded of a spacecraft. The instruments, on the other hand, remind of nothing but themselves. In a composition likes „Aiyt“ (Konzeptstück 4) for 10 instruments and tape (2001) from Christoph Ogiermann, on the other hand, where sounds are heard that as such do not differ in principle from those in Kontakte, we unmistakably find ourselves in pure musical space. And the reason is that Ogiermann has them resound on a fixed pitch and on the tones of a scale, so that the layers come to relate to one another as tonal intervals. How much the recognisability plays a crucial role is apparent especially when pure tones are not moving in discrete steps, but 'glissando': the association with movements accelerating or slowing down can then no longer be avoided. It suffices to listen to Ligeti's 'Glissandi' (1957) to become aware how compellingly we are here referred to the domain of pure aural mimesis - the pure mimetic soundscape.

Although Helmholz, in his time, could naturally identify tone and music, the recent developments in music and the unstoppable advent of aural mimesis compel us to draw the line more precisely. Crucial is not the difference between tone and noise, but the dividing line between evocation through providing (tonal) impulses for movement
on the one hand, and rendering aural appearances on the other. In order to make music, one has to resort to sounds that remind of nothing else. From way back, such have been the pure and fixed tones of musical instruments, but all the sounds that do not 'remind of' are equally appropriate. Conversely, aural mimesis can resort to tones, when their timbre or their melodic pattern reminds of existing sounds - think of the call of the cuckoo and the claps of thunder with Beethoven. But, since the sound of instruments reminds in the first place of musical instruments themselves, aural mimesis of musical sounds is the means par excellence to conjure up ... musical performances: the first and obvious task for aural mimesis. And that holds not only for discs and tapes, but, ironically enough, also for Cage's music for prepared piano when it imitates the sound of percussion instruments, and only differs from a recording in that the imitation is so imprecise that it rather makes us think of imaginary instruments than of existing ones. John Cage as the champion of 'aural photography'....


SPECIAL VARIANTS

Three kinds of soundscapes - and music: that should not make us forget that there are many hybrid forms.

To begin with, aural mimesis can go hand in hand with visual mimesis, as when we see the train on the screen
before us and hear the accompanying sound in the loudspeakers around us. Aural mimesis is at its best when it is purely aural, not only because there are many things that can be heard without being visible, but also because aural mimesis is then relieved of the task to conjure up the visual appearance of its imaginary creations. Another possitbility is to combine an aural appearance with real or imitated visual appearances that do not belong to it: think of 'Sound Island' where Bill Fontana's had the sound of the surf in Normandy resound around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. He thus created a new kind of  ‘object surréaliste’ (assemblage): a 'cross-sensory objet surréaliste'.

Next, different kinds of aural mimesis can be combined. We already referred to Beethoven's Pastoral and Ligeti's  'Aventures', Nono's 'Quando stanno morendo',
and especially to Stockhausens 'Kontakte': exemplary when about minute 17, a sound that has been travelling in glissando through space finally dissolves into its constituent rhythmical pulses and is then confronted with its musical counterparts on the piano. Think also of Respighi's 'Pini di Roma'.

And, finally, aural mimesis can
seamlessly be combined with aural architecture. Although the nature of the sounds emitted by the sound beacons does not matter in principle, recognisable sounds have a major drawback: were we to use the roaring of the lion or the howling of the wolf, our aural architecture would threaten to be transformed in the evocation of the savannah or the forest - or be debased to sheer deceptive illusionism, as when, when hearing the claps of thunder, we would haste to seek shelter. These examples make it abundantly clear why aural architecture - not otherwise than music - tends to resort to purely artificial sounds that remind of nothing except themselves: exemplary already in the ringing of bells or the flourish of trumpets. The purely 'musical' tones of these instruments are all the more welcome, since, with the ringing of bells as well as with the flourish of trumpets, precisely the vertical axis of musical space is erected, the very axis that is so difficult to realise in real space
: although the giant bell that Tarkovsky has the bell-founder cast in Anton Roublev is hanging high in the tower of the cathedral, its ringing seems to resound from the depths of the earth - a genuine 'Ruf aus der Tiefe': musical space elegantly solves the technical problem of realising the vertical dimension....


DIE GEBURT DES SOUNDSCAPES AUS DEM GEISTE DER MUSIK

In his endeavour to give his creations a name - or to provide them of a respectable aura -  Pierre Schaeffer asked himself: "Something has been added, a new art of sound. I am wrong when I call it music?" His question has to be answered negatively - although his creations continue to be called  'musique concrète', 'sonography'
, by analogy with 'photography', would have been a better alternative. And that raises a new question: why was it not evident from the beginning that, next to music, there is something like aural mimesis and aural design/architecture? Why could everything that sounded - Cage's 'sons trouvés' included - so easily pass for music?

The most important evildoer has certainly been the fact that music has for a long time been considered as the paradigm of non-representing, non-mimetic - abstract - art. Without the concept of mimesis, it is no longer possible to distinguish four kinds of 'sound games', and the scheme above collapses like a house of cards. That was not much of a problem, as long as what composers composed used to be music indeed –  and that has been the case until far in the twentieth century. It became something of a problem only when the extension of the array of sounds was understood as an extension of the domain of music, whereas, in fact, a new territory had been entered: that of ordinary aural mimesis. Because at the same time musicians came to use a broader array of sounds, it was not from the beginning evident that we were dealing with a parallel development, especially not since both developments often merged in hybrid compositions, and since often the same people using the same instruments, ere active in both domains: thus, Ligeti's 'Poème symphonique' belongs in the world of the 
'tönend bewegte formen' just like marbles thrown from marble stairs; his 'Glissandi'  belongs in the world of aural mimesis, and his  'Atmosphères' in the world of music pur sang, while, finally, his 'Aventures' is a hybrid form that combines music with aural mimesis...


LET THERE BE LIGHT ...

But it is not because the soundscape is born 'aus dem Geiste der Musik', that we should not cut the umbilical chord that binds it to its respectable mother.
That is more than ever necessary: the false consciousness that everything that sounds is music has wreaked a terrible havoc!

It has in the first place checked and handicapped the development of the mimetic soundscape. With hindsight, it is surprising to see that someone like Pierre Schaeffer did not from the beginning find the appropriate methods of composing for his 'objets sonores', and rather felt prompted to integrate them in 'melodic structures' and even 'gavottes', as if he was composing with 'tones'! It speaks volumes that - apart from the evolution in the cinema
, where the soundscape is combined with images on the screen - the development of the soundscape suddenly accelerated when, from a totally different world as that of musicians, people like Murray Schafer began to record the 'acoustic environment' on tape. Only here have cutting and editing been used as the most obvious way of composing, like in the film. That is not to say that a soundscape can not be more than a mere aural background: it certainly can consist of more organically structured events, or even a dramatic plot. But then, we would inevitably stumble upon the inherent shortcoming of aural mimesis: that the overwhelming majority of objects and events are bluntly inaudible!  That is precisely the reason why musical mimesis has been developed!

And had (the) art (of mimesis) not so consistently been confused with design, we surely would have witnessed the emergence of a genuine aural design and dito architecture, as sketched above. Nowadays the term 'musical architecture' - in its literal sens a veritable contradictio in terminis as we know by now - is used to denotate all kinds of phenomena like background music or background sounds, not the disposition of aural beacons over an extended surface in real space, as the auditory counterparts of columns and obelisks, trees and fountains, buildings and towers - or buoys on the surface of seas and lakes... How differently would things have evolved
, had a proper designation like 'aural architecture' been used and had the proper association with pre-industrial aural architecture been made from the beginning....

But foremost music would have fared better. The development of a ordinary aural mimesis with appropriate materials and appropriate ways of composing would
have made it vey clear that, in music, the tones ascend in a musical space of its own right. That would have prevented the inglorious implosion of musical space brought about by the disposition of loudspeakers and musicians alike over the four corners of space  around the public: imagine Ligeti's Atmosphères - not to mention Beethoven's Ninth - played by musicians on the seats the Coliseum around the public in the arena: that would be a great spectacle, but the music would be lost. Nothing more unmusical than 'surround sound' – that ideal belongs in the world of aural mimesis, but foremost in the world of aural architecture.

Wherewith is demonstrated again what havoc can be wrought
by wrong ideas - or, conversely, as we hope, how stimulating good ideas may well be.....



© Stefan
Beyst , August 2004       


 * Bill Fontana's musical sculptures: the shadows of John Cage.
** For the technical problems that have to be overcome here: see the last paragraph of            'Musical Space and its inhabitants'.      


BOOKS

SCHAFER, Murray R: 'The Soundscape
' Destiny Books, 1977,1994.
S
CHWARTZ, Hillel: 'Noise and Silence: The Soundscape and Spirituality'               
   
 

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See also    stefan beyst on contemporary artists


 

referrers

The World Soundscape Project

Matt Borghi   Erik Spangler
Stephen Vitiello
 
*
as an extra: a poem by
Carlos Barbarito

(John Cage, 4' 33'')

In the centre of the world,
a piano, silent;
music, the noises of the world:
there is no animal that does not cry out,
squawk, howl, puff, snort;
there is no thing
that does not grind, chirp,
squeak, ferment, exhale.
In the centre, a man
motionless at the keyboard;
the music, the noises of the others:
stammering, stuttering,
applause, groans, calls,
imprecations, belches,
flatulence, entreaties, supplications,
curses, songs.

(Translation Brian Cole)