SABINE BREITSAMETER, trans_canada
What is Soundscape, how does it relate to composition, and what is the context, Barry Truax, Hildegard Westerkamp and also Darren Copeland is deriving from.
I would like to start my lecture with a personal story. In 1988 I happened to travel through Zaire, which today is Kongo. One of my goals was to visit the Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga National Park, in East Zaire (this whole region became after 1994 the scenery for an extreme human catastrophy). The gorillas lived deep in the jungle and in order to find them, you had to enter the jungle and the accompanying rangers would trace them and you would just follow the rangers in this very remote area. You had to hike for some hours uphill and then you entered a very, very dense jungle. Suddenly you were in a dark environment, where you couldn`t distinguish any more visually what was around you. The most bewildering experience was the sound. It was a sound I have never heard before.
How can I describe this sound? It consisted of a countless multitude of micro intervallic layers of sharp frequencies. The colours and timbres of these sounds were far from seeming natural. It sounded very synthetic, very technical and I got immediately the impression of being immersed in an electronic studio with a lot of different sound generators. I had never heart something like this before.
The sounds were strange and abstract. They didn`t resemble anything I knew. They didn`t reveal anything to me which seemed to be related to the world. That much strange was it. It was not easy to overcome the awe and fear and to become finally receptive to these sounds., like you can become receptive to a piece of music. Finally I became aware that I was listening to sounds, which seemed organized. The sounds developed. The sounds followed a certain dramaturgical itinerary. And the reason for this itinerary was my presence in the jungle.
The deeper I came into the forest, the closer I came to the gorillas` lair, the more dense and vibrant became the sound. Any sound I made by walking or by acting somehow returned to me by a multitude of sounds created by the jungle. It was a composition which had eyes and ears and something maybe you would call today an interactive sonic environment which responded to me. I influenced the compositional development with my presence and activity although the effect of my influence was unpredictable. You could not say for, what would be happening when I did this and that or just went around a certain corner and so on. It was just surprising what happened. The sounds as I said already, seemed synthetic, no natural or concrete association was revealed by these sounds.
Unfortunately, at this time I was not in possession of any recorder and I did not make any recording of this. My first sound example is a recording from a jungle made by the anthropologist Steven Feld. He made it in New Guinea at the Bosavi Rain . The sounds are less dense, are less strange, less electronic than in my experience but his recording had been made for a different purpose, as an anthropologist Steven Feld researches the relations and interdependencies between the environmental sounds and the Bosavi people’s everyday life and culture.
SOUND: Steven Feld, Voices of the Rainforest
Shortly after my visit in Zaire in 1988, I got coincidentally the German translation, of Murray Schafer’s book “The Tuning of the World” and I realized that there is a name, a term, a system of thoughts for what I had experienced sonically in the jungle, the term is “Soundscape”.
It was very interesting for me to learn that Murray Schafer considers any Soundscape a composition, and reading this book, it was very interesting to me to see that relating to the world by listening, the world, can be conceived as a kind of composition and can be perceived at the same time critically, as the sounds of the world reveal something of society and civilization.
What exactly means Soundscape? I think it’s a word often heart now, and it’s an artificial term. As most of you know, it combines the word “landscape” with the word sound, and it is difficult to translate in other languages. In Germany, we say “Klanglandschaft” after a lot of disputes how this would be best called. In French it’s “Paysage Sonore”, but anyway, I think it’s not the same as the word Soundscape which is composed and therefore especially meaningful. So it’s just a trial to make this term work also available in other languages.
This term had been coined by the composer and researcher MURRAY SCHAFER in the Mid-Sixties and I have also heart that also other people claim to have coined this term as well. I don’t have any names here, but is that known to somebody of you that there is somebody who claims also to have invented the word Soundscape? I would just ask you, because maybe somebody of you knows. What about Barry, do you know this? Nothing definite. But I think it’s such a, it’s so associative that it’s quite clear that you can combine these two words and then this term will come out. So, well, I think it’s nothing, maybe not so special to find, to combine these two words.
So, Soundscape refers to the sonic appearance of the environment. And I will soon go more into detail. But let me say that the term Soundscape is nowadays broadly used. And without that the users know that there is a history of this term, and that there is a kind of definition of this term. And a whole set of ideas and maybe a whole image of the world. So, let me give you some examples how the term Soundscape is nowadays used in such a broad way. I remember that in the late 90s the computer shop opposite my home in B sold sound cards, with the brand name Soundscape, and maybe some of you know these soundcards. And as far as I remember, they were particularly noisy ones. So, not the best. Better to avoid them.
Or maybe somebody of you has made different experiences, I don’t know. Or, if you go to the Internet and type in “www. soundscape.com”, you will find a manufacturer in Florida where you can buy outdoor loudspeakers.
Or if you go to “soundscape-online.de”, this will be an especially surprising discovery, because you will find a cover rock band from the Swedish province, which is playing at beer fests.
And if you go to “soundscape.tk” you will find a hardrock band from
Ah. Ok. T. Tk. T like Theodore. Ok. You will find a hard rock band from the Netherlands and they are playing the style of the early Eighties and you know heavy metal and such things and you find very badly encoded MP3s on their website.
Well, so you can see that the term Soundscape is very very deliberately used and there seems to be no common notion and maybe also no interest in investigating what this term really means. And from my students, and many of them study visual design, I learned that in their branch, in the branch of V.D., the term Soundscape is used to refer to sonic attributes of something visual FX you have an icon on a website, then you click on it and then there is a sound, so they call this Soundscape. So of course you strongly feel that this kind of deliberate use is maybe something you should clarify. And you should make, esp. the students acquainted with what Soundscape really means. So, well, what does it really mean, Soundscape, what does it mean according to the person MURRAY SCHAFER who coined the term?
And I don’t want to give here a quick def or quotation but would like to challenge a bit now your sonic imagination. You remember my narration about my sonic experience in the jungle. And I told you about the strange electronic-like sound which changed with every footstep I did, with every turn we made. So maybe you have a kind of imagination of how these sounds might have sounded. Just much more radical than those we have heard here. So maybe you just try to imagine these sounds shortly... and then try to imagine the sounds of a Canadian mountain forest, just in comparison.
Or you imagine the sounds of a village at the Seaside of Germany and you compare them with the sounds of a desert, let’s say in the Sahara.
What you have been imagining is all soundscapes, and why am I not saying, you were imagining sounds? Because Soundscape in its analogy to landscape suggests that the Soundscape is a kind of sonic representation of landscape. And that is interesting because sonic representation of a LSC means, a visual LSC is more or less, if you look at it, static, at least you think so. And a sonic Soundscape or a sonic representation of a LSC must by dynamic, because without any movement you would not hear anything. So it needs movement, it needs kind of alteration, it needs activity, vibration, process and so on.
Otherwise you cannot perceive any sonic representation of a LSC, you cannot perceive a Soundscape. So Soundscape implies basically the natural or the setting of a place. It can be a natural setting of course, it can be any other kind of setting as well. It implies the setting of a place, its geography, its physicality, its topography. Soundscape implies also materials, forms and architectures, 3-D-entities, which create ?, echo and so on. So these are sound-processing properties of a 3-D-place or a 3-D-entity. And Soundscape implies movements, activities of machines and or living beings, human beings, animals, plants, and so on. And all these factors I have mentioned here create sounds and shape sounds. And so they contribute to a special sonic environment. They form a sonic totality of a huge number of sounds. So Soundscape is, to quote Murray Schafer here, Soundscape means the whole acoustic, environmental envelope, which surrounds us.
It is a concept which does not focus on a single, isolated sound, but on all sounds present in a certain room, space or situation. It also implies, Soundscape also implies, sounds we don’t want. Sounds we dislike and sounds we usually eliminate from our conscious hearing. And I think that is very very important. So the Soundscape concept implies that the sounds reach the listener as a sum, as a totality from all directions of a space and without selecting. Every single sound you hear is important to create a Soundscape. And it is not that you consider certain sounds relevant or not, or you consider that or you focus on certain sounds in order to emphasize on the relevant sound. But the Soundscape doesn’t follow any more the dichotomy of here is music, and there is everyday life sound or, here is a signal, and there is noise. Soundscape just integrates these notions. So it is also implying, or integrating the sounds as I said already, which we have learned to ignore.
I want to play you another ex. now from my next CD, and this is a very interesting CD, it was created at 1976, and I think Barry already referred to this. This is Vancouver soundscapes, 1976, and this was, these are all recordings, the word Soundscape project had recorded. What is the word Soundscape project? It was initiated by MURRAY SCHAFER together with a bunch of people, Hildegard and Barry had been already mentioning, you are two of them but I think in total they were 5 or 6. 5 people. So they had been, the aim of the word Soundscape project was, to explore the sonic appearances of spaces and places all over the world in order to catalogue, them, to study their changes over time, to find out what makes them different or similar, and to develop a consistent system of description, by which they can be compared. And of course also to analyse critically weather they are aesthetically satisfying or not.
Also in terms of noise. And I will come to that later.
So I will play you one tape here. This is a mixture of many many sounds. It’s not the usual way of just pointing your microphone to playing children, but letting in also the other sounds of the environment, deep frequencies or the nearby sounds of ?, and so on, so that everything is mixing just in order to get an impression about, what is going on in a very particular place at a certain time and not to eliminate what is going on. But just getting, becoming aware of everything which is going on there. Not to get a clean, what we call in radio a very clean kind of recording and so on. That is not the case of course.
Clean in the sense that it has been done professionally the levels are fine and everything, it’s clean in this way. But it’s not clean in the way that a sound, a certain sound is isolated and taken out of a certain context just in order to have it in an isolated way as a kind of representation of it.
So Soundscape I explained already, the sum, the totality of sounds happening at one particular place or in one particular space. One can speak of course of the Soundscape of a room, the Soundscape of a certain space, the Soundscape of a city or of a natural environment, but also of course of the Soundscape of a medium, of radio, TV, Internet, of a data space FX like Cave or listen. These data spaces which are projections and which are highly virtual data spaces FX. And of course MURRAY SCHAFER emphasized this very much. You can also speak of the Soundscape of a composition.
As I said also electronic spaces have a Soundscape like FX. radio or the Internet or any electroacoustic space. And also this is not a physical 3-D-space, radio FX, it has a communication architecture, it has materials, and it has its purposes and traditions, and they shape and characterize the sounds and have developed a typical production aesthetic. And therefore you can speak FX. also of a Soundscape of radio.
What are the conditions of creating sound and shaping sound in radio? Soundscape of radio is characterized by first its material. It’s mostly sounds made by humans, voice, spoken word, music. It’s also characterized by closely miked voices. Or sound events which are which have eliminated distant and delicate sounds, which are rarely audible. Shifting and changing between close and distant sound does usually not exist, movement in space is generally avoided and space is more or less neutralized in order to not to become an issue of meaning and interpretation.
So also the condensed succession of sounds, the high density of one sound following after one another is a characteristic, and this of course concerns the timeline. So the avoidance of longer pauses and silence is also a characteristic of common radio. And I am of course I see here a lot of radio makers who are here because they don’t work in this way. But of course they don’t work for this very normal radio. They work for very special radio-slots and very special radio-creations. So of course for them this does not apply so much, and maybe even in these creative radio-slots one could think of even opening it more to those yes, to those things avoided in usual soundscapes. But anyway.
This is not what I mean. I don’t mean the creative radio style. But I mean what 98 % of radio is doing all over the world. And this is characterized by the points I have mentioned here. So the reason for these characteristics of radio Soundscape is the marketing character of radio by which a huge part of radio is dominated and influenced.
Where time is measured in seconds, a silence is a loss of money, and of course when there are pauses, but the fear is the listener who needs to be entertained will just switch off and there is this ideology of entertainment or maybe the task these kinds of radios have taken on, so of course any pauses are not according to these tasks or to this marketing character.
Another reason for this that the original news and message-orientation of radio separates signal from noise clearly and whose aim it is to get the signal or the message across without any irritation or an excess-connotation. Of course also those have to make sure that the voice is very close to the microphone so that no extra-sounds come and might create disturbance or irritation.
I am playing you now another sound FX, it’s a composition of Murray Schafer and it’s a composition that’s esp. made for radio, and its title is “Winter diary” and it is, it has been created in 1997 with the help of the composer Claude Schreier. And it has one, in Germany a very important price, a very important Experimental Radio Price, the Karl-Sczuka-Price, and I will play you some first minutes of that.
So this was a radio production, radio composition, which uses the dos and don’ts of normal radio in a very different way and which goes I think very much to the limits of it, and this is what I wanted to play you just to get an impression it’s a 59 minutes-piece, so this piece is just a counter- veining (?) to these laws of normal radio production I had been explaining to you. So each Soundscape reproduces or represents the conditions, the natural, cultural, social, technical conditions why it sounds as it sounds.
And you could say, Soundscape narrates something or it speaks of something you could say, a Soundscape is legible, you can read it. Listening to a Soundscape you can read FX-materials, 3-D-shapes, cultural aspects, pace movements, social structures, FX. do you hear women at a certain Soundscape of a village or of a city, what about religion, what about social regulations, and so on. You can read thus by listening to a Soundscape. You can also read by listening to it about the importance and role of technology. And in listening to sounds, in listening to footsteps, building work, breaks of a car and so on, you can say Soundscape is a system of signs.
And of course this has already been elaborated. Because at the World Soundscape project there were certain terms introduced. Like Kino sound FX. or other terms by which you can describe the appearance of a Soundscape. So, the Soundscape is a system of signs, I said. And it is a system of signs, which can even go beyond what the eye can perceive as signs.
I just want to mention, most of you know Bench, this very interesting village in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, where there is this very interesting art centre, and B. is very picturesque, and if you see postcards, it looks very you know very wonderful natural setting and so on. But if you hike there in the morning, and if you hike uphill FX, suddenly you can hear military airplanes and they fly very high and they come very suddenly, they are invisible but they are very loud and they are audible. So just by listening to the Soundscape instead of watching the LSC, the Soundscape can reveal that this idyllic situation of B. FX. is something which is not idyllic at all because there are these constant military planes in a very loud way, flying over this situation.
Also this shows of course power and power relationships. And MURRAY SCHAFER uses the term “sacred noise” to describe environmental sounds which are obviously allowed to dominate the Soundscape. These sacred sounds, this sacred noise, can be FX. church bells or religious sounds. It can be construction noise or machine noise. It can be open-air pubs at night during summer. Like there is a big controversy in Berlin now going on where there are open air pubs in living quarters and where they go on for the whole night so that the people there cannot sleep.
And the question is, why are these sounds tolerated by the administration and not sanctioned by the laws, all these sounds I mentioned.
Here the loud church bells, the ?, the construction noise, and so on. Why do the laws not sanction these, because these sounds represent values, which are socially and politically approved and safeguarded. And these are in many societies and official belief-system, these are in many societies things like believed, related to belief-systems, to efficiency, mobility and consumption and so on.
So, also in this respect, the Soundscape is informative and consists of signs, which are legible. Of course sounds deriving from what we consider reality are represented in one or the other respect and therefore can easily be conceived as part of a Soundscape language. But also not only the sounds themselves but the way they are edited, mixed, recorded, etc., speak of something and as we have seen by exploring radio Soundscape, finally also a very revealing, also very eloquent are the sounds which are absent.
The sounds FX as I said already, if you have the Soundscape of a certain city somewhere, if there is a lack of sounds of women, this indicates something, this speaks of something. Or, certain, the absence of sounds of technology or of nature in a certain environment. The absent of near or distant sound. Also this indicated something. And all this again is significant, and this is kind of legibility, of course you have to learn to read this Soundscape in order to read it properly.
The question is, could one go as far as saying, Soundscape in forms about a political situation. Does FX. a dictatorship, a state where dictatorship is, does it sound different from democracy, how sound the parliaments, FX., how sounds their public lives. And anyone who has been FX to Burma by the end of the 1980s or the early 90s knows how silent a country can be when there is a very strong dictatorship FX.
Or anybody who has been often to East-Berlin like I had been on a certain Easter Sunday in 1989, it was a very sunny Easter Sunday so in West-Berlin everybody was out in the cafes, on the lawns, there was a very lively public life. And when you went to East-Berlin which I did on this day everything, you know nothing in the streets, it was very quiet, the sun was shining the same as in West-Berlin FX, but it was very different.
So the question still is and remains to discuss, how does a political situation sound and how can a Soundscape be dicipled (?) politically FX. Those who have experienced the Soundscape of a military curfew know about its characteristic, which implies that every sound outside gains a profound and dramatic importance.
Hildegard Westerkamp once said, and I have to retranslate what she said in German into English, so please correct me, she said, as soon as you are willing to listen to your place intensely you will become a completely different person in this place. Because you will start to understand each sound like a word.
This is the way I understand Soundscape, she says, it is another kind of language, which we have, and of quotation. I want to play an excerpt of her composition “Into India”, she already presented us an excerpt of this composition but I will play a different one, and here H. uses a signifier by which a very settle narration unfolds. And it is the sound of high frequency mechanic sounds, metallic tinny (??) sounds they, H. ? comes into India and I want to go back to the characteristics of Radio Soundscape. And it’s interesting, almost all of the features to characterize radio Soundscape are also characteristics of an urban landscape.
The dominance of human sounds, the lack of distant and delicate sounds, the lack of silence and the permanence of sound events, the non-stop sound events. So the urban Soundscape seems to be mirrored by the usual radio production aesthetic. And MURRAY SCHAFER goes as far as stating the urban Soundscape has created standards of sonic perception which the radio affirms and takes as basic norms. And again I am talking here about normal, usual standard radio and of course not creative radio. Most of the people who are here from radio are involved in. So, MURRAY SCHAFER therefore assumes the urban experience as coining sonic design principles and as coining listeners` expectation. As we said, Soundscape is a result of the ways a society exists or as MURRAY SCHAFER puts it, a result of the priorities and deficiencies of a society, a result also of power relationship.
So if you think that further you can say, the values which coin our daily sonic environment and which coin our listening habits, these values have an effect on the making of the sonic appearance of media. I think the interesting aspect of the Soundscape thinking is that this system of thought tries to connect a critical view of society with a critical view of an aesthetic phenomenon, and this aesthetic phenomenon is sound and music.
So, political and social deficiency results in a deficient culture of listening. This is the message of the Soundscape thinking, and a deficient culture of sound making. At this point, we have to refer to the fact that the term Soundscape is closely related to the term “Acoustic ecology” (AE). Which were in fact, both were developed in parallel.
Especially in Germany, AE became in the late 1990s a most controversially discussed or disputed term. One of the most common reproaches, is that correct, was that AE would be ideologizing the compositional material, it would be making a difference between ecological correct sounds and ecological non-approvable sounds. And, the letter, so these critiques assumed were sounds of technology, these were ecological not correct, and the ecological correct sounds was assumed were sounds of nature. So this was what the critiques stated and I think this is of course a very superficial understanding. However it was quite popular at this time. It was a very superficial understanding of AE and its relationship to the artistic use of sound.
Maybe it is also caused by the fear of becoming involved as an artist in a strict value system, which became at least in Germany synonymous with a political party, and its image, and a certain quite restricted lifestyle related to this. But whatever, from my own experience I can say, the green party in Germany and their cultural politicians couldn’t care less about the issues AE is racing and the cultural understanding is, to be very critical here at this point, is not so open, and I would suggest quite limited. And maybe this is probably another reason for the simplification by which AE was judged. So, clarification is necessary about, what is AE and here are some suggestions:
AE is based on the dissatisfaction with the sonic environment and it states that the Soundscape of everyday life is ugly coincidental and aesthetically unsatisfactory. There is no intent of design behind, and just in contrary, most of the visual appearances in our society is very consciously designed, weather it is good designed, that is another question, but anyway, visual appearances are, I would say, 99.9 % designed. So this means, if there is such an unsatisfactory everyday life sound surrounding, it means that this lessons have UNTERBRECHUNG and quality of life. This affects the individual’s autonomy to be able to listen or to listen not. And also it confronts everybody with an aesthetically unsatisfying experience. You are surrounded constantly by things you don’t want to listen to. So, of course this dissatisfaction is a kind of basic thought of AE. This critique, AE is not a system to classify sounds into good and bad. It is a system of thoughts, which studies the mutual sonic influences between living beings, humans, animals, plants, and their environment. Which can be a natural environment or a human made environment, electronic or urban or natural, whatsoever.
So the question AE asks is, how do the mutual influences of human beings and their physical or virtual environment affect each other, they communicate with each other, and result in a certain Soundscape. So it asks for the interdependencies and the cybernetic natures. And these are especially emphasized and explained in Barry Truax theory of acoustic communication. Which is really a very good book, which I would like to recommend to everybody of you. At least my students all have to read that.
So the interesting thing is that by these theories, AE and Soundscape the peoples`ability and willingness to listen is not primarily identified as form and content-related, but strongly related to society and its values, which coin, as already explained, the Soundscape. If there is only little being worth listen to, so this is one thought of AE, the receptiveness of hearing is less or even lost if the range of sonic experiences gets small. Then the expectation that there is something beyond the listening habits gets of course also lost and the receptiveness is not there if you don’t expect that there is something being worth listen to.
In order to bring people in touch again with what their perception has to get out of contact with, Schaefer and AE in general emphasizes “Sonic Education” (SE). And a person very famous for this SE and very creative workshops is Hildegard Westerkamp, who has been doing workshops all over the world, getting people in touch with sounds unheard to them and bring them in touch with the fascination of the sonic environment and of course also to mention Barry as a university teacher doing the same. So this SE is a very crucial part of AE. And in strengthening the individuals` sonic perception and its critical listening abilities, those will be enabled to claim or reclaim the aesthetic quality of the Soundscape in everyday life, art and media. That is what AE thinks and is bringing along.
At the same time the idea is also to make people acquainted with the range of sonic modes of expression and creation. So the part of education is a very important one in AE. It identifies mainly organization, destruction of nature, industrialization and consumerism as main causes for the impoverishment of the sonic environment and it assumes that these factors hinder or suppress the possible or existing multitude of sonic temples. And the diversity of acoustic perspectives. So the letter might confirm the reproaches that AE is an anti-technological movement however, if you look a little bit closer to that, AE`s thought is not that technology is per se causing these effects but that its role it had been assigned in society and politics puts it in a position by which these effects are created.
So in this respect, there was also a lot of misunderstanding going on in the past. I have to mention here a last but very important characteristic of the system of AE and Soundscape. It is to consider Soundscape itself as a composition like I said it in the beginning. Like I mentioned it from my jungle experience.
So, Soundscape as a composition is a composition to which everybody present in the Soundscape contributes by his or her voice and communication, by movement, by handling of machines FX., by handling of electroacoustic devices, by the mere physical presence and also by developing and realizing concepts of space machines and communications. I want to explain the latter a bit. Two examples:
Urban planning has an extremely huge effect on the Soundscape. So, you could say maps and plans are kind of scores for a Soundscape composition. Maybe you could go as far as stating this. And whoever conceived the mobile phone affected by the ring turns (?) as well as by conceiving new communicational behaviour, and strongly sonic impact on the sonic environment.
But unlike J. Cage and his famous dictum, everything is music, MURRAY SCHAFER judges this all and ever composition critically as one which is often out of tune and which has to be as he says re-orchestrated in order to obtain a consciously elaborated and well-sounding result.
The composer H. W. is talking in this respect of the composing ear. Because if you conceive Soundscape as a composition, of course you have to have an attitude, a listening attitude, accordingly which complies to conceive it as a composition. It’s not that it is in fact a composition but that your listening attitude makes it such a composition and is able to create this kind of a form and it brings out what is inside already as a form, and uses the sounds you listen to in a creative way.
Ok, now I have to get rid of all my yellow…so, the Soundscape can be said is maybe a sonic, not object trouvé but composition trouvé, and is many time out of tune, as I already mentioned, M. S. conceives it, it’s in need of being retuned according the values of AE. But especially for a younger generation, this being out of tune is judged quite differently and is even considered aesthetically interesting. And also many of them would not follow the criteria of that a hi-fi-soundscape which is a very transparent Soundscape, where you can listen to all the sonic elements, that such a hi-fi- Soundscape is preferable to a lo-fi- Soundscape which is dense and where the signals are overcrowded and there is no clarity of sounds, as MURRAY SCHAFER suggests in his book, “The tuning of the world”. So, the younger people would really, many of them would really not follow these criteria. And they would also not say that this lo-fi Soundscape disencourages listening.
So, there is a different discussion going on weather it is possible to accept critically the paradigms of Soundscape maybe even the cybernetic principles of AE and at the same time not share all the judgements, or the judgements in general of AE. The question is, can you be a soundscapeer and at the same time understand and enjoy FX. ? music, club music, techno etc.
Can you acknowledge AE`s cybernetic circle, cybernetic system and at the same time be interested in interactive sound settings of data spaces like Cave or like Internet things or all these interactive things now which are done in cyberspace and so on. I personally think you can, and if you take Soundscape and AE not as value systems but as paradigms I think this really should work. But of course it needs a lot of discussion with the people that coined and invented and brought up AE and Soundscape. So, it rests to define then, what is Soundscape composition. And before I try to suggest some answers to these questions, there is another sound ex. I would like to give, the last one, it’s from Barry Truax, a composition “La Sera di Benevento”..
What is Soundscape composition? We heard an excerpt of Barry Truax , one piece of Barry Truax. And he once wrote, and I quote this: “To distinguish Soundscape composition from musique concrete or acousmatic music, the original sounds must stay recognizable in order to invoke the readers` contextual and symbolic associations. So that is what B. suggests to identify Soundscape composition.
H.W. has suggested similar things, and B. refers to the relationship between the real world and through processing a kind of inner world, a dream world that is created. And the tension between both worlds represented through both types of sounds, the original sounds and the processed sounds, and their shades and grades in between is according to B., also to H. and others, a central characteristics of Soundscape composition.
At this point it has to be mentioned two things. MURRAY SCHAFER`s winter diary does not at all work with the electro-acoustic processing of sound, however it creates too, a sonic world which is reflected and full of imaginations far beyond a naturalistic sonic depiction. His piece does not work with sound processing but is in a very defined dis-and re-contextualizing sounds. And also this is of course a way of manipulate something in an electro-acoustic way.
The second thing I would mention in this respect is that the tension between natural and manipulated sound is one of the basic characteristics of today’s radiophonic art forms in general, which are named at least here in Europe Ars Acoustica (AA) the blurring of semantics and connotations by strategies of obstruction without losing touch with the original sounds and its set of meanings, this is the fine and often very disputed boundary which separates this AA, this type of radio art, from music.
So, as Soundscape composition and this AA are so quite similar, we again run into this kind of blurring definitions. And, I want just to raise this issue. It’s not so easy to define what is Soundscape composition. So, this is also the edge, which identifies Soundscape composition from other Acoustic music, this boundary of original sound here and a processed sound there and to define this fine boundary, which separates Soundscape from Music or AA from Music. I think this is a very interesting discussion and all programme makers who are sitting here; they know that this discussion is so relevant in Today’s radio.
There is another thought. It seems to be obvious and consequent to follow Hildegard Westerkamp's idea stating Soundscape composition is supposed to now quotation, “highlight its potential in enhancing listening awareness. It should and could inspire ideas about Soundscape and AE.”. So according to this, what H. was I was quoting of her, the Soundscape composition should relate to the system and value of Soundscape and AE. And I think the latter is difficult and even problematic. As you can never control the perception and interpretation of the listener. I personally would see that more as a kind of added value which comes out if composer and audience are lucky and if the situation in itself is let’s say harmonic, in inverted? You could also ensure this effect by becoming didactic, but who wants that.
Which artist wants to become didactic in order to secure that this effect of getting in touch with the idea of Soundscape and AE really comes out as a certain effect. And, has Soundscape composition really to be related exclusively to electroacoustics? If yes, how does this relate to MURRAY SCHAFER`s thesis of Soundscape being a composition? Is soundscape`s main identifier its material, or couldn’t it be the process, the way to deal with certain parameters, like moment versus duration FX. or sound as a product versus sound as an activity.
What FX. about Alvin Lucier's “I Am Sitting in a Room”? Of course he is not a soundscapeer and an AE, but is this not a Soundscape composition because it heightens the awareness between sound, media and space Question mark? I think we should discuss things like that. And what about the sounds installation of Rolf Julius FX.? Who uses nature-like sounds which really can be confused very easily, with crickets and birds and so on. Is this not Soundscape composition, what about Christina Kubisch`s very recent production “Electrical works”, where the representation of the city is not the sounds of the city but the electromagnetic inductions which all the electric devices create there, is that Soundscape composition question mark? And how big or small is finally the distance between acousmatics on one hand and soundscapes on the other? Where do they touch and where do they where are they separated?
These are all questions, which I would like to discuss with you. However, it’s very late and I think everybody wants to go home now to prepare for the next concert. So I leave this question open for later discussion. Thank you very much.