Soundscape Lecture Notes (20th October)

Creating Music Computers

Lecture 3 – Soundscapes

Research

  • Think long and hard about the outcome
  • For creative, rich, process-based work, you need to do some listening, reading and analysis. You try ideas out and then snowball it from there. You must have evidence that you have done this process.
  • It’s not the sort of thing you can do overnight
  • Present the material in a way that Matt can mark it
  • The other element is the work itself which is a soundscape piece of work
  • Engage with getting hold of field recordings and incorporate them into a work that responds to and works with these field recordings
  • The task should help you learn to listen in a new way: listen to your environment, think how you would record that and then think about how you would translate it into something creative

Tony Myatt/Chris Watson Talk and Concert

  • When you encounter the soundscape you move through it we are “bodies in motion”
  • Sound walking can be done to further this idea of walking through the sounds
  • It also cancels the traditional concert format
  • Combination of instruments
  • Bodily sounds – the listening body is fundamental to CMT students. Electrified sound reproduction has the potential to address the body and as listeners, we listen with our bodies, so as a writer you should be writing for the body.
  • Having a narrative
  • You’re relying on your own resources and having some abstract material but you need to have some sort of form. It has to be meaningful and accessible and having some sort of order but being something that’s poetic and having some sort of ‘meaning
  • How can soundscapes fuel the imagination?

Framework – http://frameworkradio.net

  • Podcast radio show
  • Collections of field recordings and soundscape compositions
  • Listen to them and reflect on them
  • Spend a few days listening to them and you’ll atune to the style

Field Recording

  • Act of listening and recording at the same time
  • Going on a journey or “sound safari” going out looking for material
  • In The Field: The Art of Field Recording is a good book to get
  • It’s a growing artistic practice
  • It’s similar to photography – it’s become a popular domestic hobby
  • It’s not enough to go out with your iPhone once and make a recording of Guildford train station
  • You need to develop your field recording practice – you’re going to need to do a good few hours of it – you’ll learn a lot over time and the more you can do, the better
  • Attentive listening, skilful recording and representation
  • You don’t need expensive gear
  • Can approach it in a lo-fi way but you have to think about the aesthetics
  • http://aporee.org/maps
    • Maps
    • Field recordings all over the world
  • The purist approach requires accurate representation – the idea that a field recording can tell a story
  • The basis for this work is field recording

The soundscape continuum:

Purist (field recording)                                                           Abstract (more musical)

Abstract approach:

  • Francisco Lopez:
    • Takes field recording a abstracts them
    • He makes ‘sculptural forms’
    • He doesn’t label his work or provide any details
      • Because he doesn’t want you to think about the ‘meaning’, where he’s recorded it, what it was etc.
      • He thinks by simply listening to it you’ll be able to know something about its sonic source
    • You make the field recording + represent the place and that’s ok for documentary purposes but the more it’s in evidence, the less musical the work becomes (there’s a fine line between the narrative that could be too literal and the poetic which can be quite musical)
    • His work is ‘lost’ – it does not connect to the place and he claims that this makes it very musical
    • Abstraction opens the door for artistic creation – he believe it makes things work better
    • His work kicks against the ‘traditional’ approach (which Matt refers to as ‘Soundscape Composition’
    • Nature can be noisy i.e. if you’re living next to a waterfall, it’s noisy all the time

Purist approach:

  • Referential (i.e. it represents what you would hear in the world
  • Chris Watson Stepping into the Dark
  • Creating a ‘sonorous fog’
  • Play between recognisable representation of a place and that they are just lovely to listen to

Acoustic Ecology:

  • Lo-fi/hi-fi relationship
    • Urban = lo-fi and bad
      • The constant noise of machines and man-made sounds
    • Country = hi-fi and good
  • It’s about ‘tuning’ in to the world
  • They wanted to document soundscapes that are ‘disappearing’ and there is some value to this – there is evidence that some man-made noises are actually affecting people’s health in a bad way
  • They say that the rural environment is very differentiated
  • [Barry Traux’s definitions of soundscape]
  • There is an environmentally-conscious feel to it: acoustic ecology
    • You could make a piece that is about the environment
  • Make the piece longer if it needs time to unfold

Phonography:

  • It’s not sound recording or acoustic ecology
  • It does not adhere to commercial views of perfect sound recordings
  • You can hear the mic being handled, people talking in the background

Earth Jazz

  • Bug Music in Spotify by David Rothenberg
  • This is much more musical
  • Environmentalist
  • Making music ‘with the world’
  • It’s quite tacky
  • It sounds like someone playing ok jazz with field recordings, but some of it is very interesting, particularly Bug Music
  • You could do something like this which incorporates more standard musical ideas with field recording that interact with each other. But don’t make it just an ambient piece with some field recordings

Experimental Electronica:

  • Biosphere Starswitch On
  • Higher Intelligence Agency
  • Birmingham Frequencies by Biosphere (“Canon Hill”)
  • Field recording and electronic music such as ambient
  • Be careful if you do this though, there has to be a connection between the instrumental sounds and the field recordings

Things to consider:

  • How will you record it
  • Will you be present in the piece or absent
  • When will you record it
  • You can generate many hours of recordings but just a bit will be useful
  • Collage as much as you can, even if you’re trying to make it sound like a single take
    • That’s not to say that you couldn’t do it the other way
    • But consider what’s in it and whether it’s suitable and whether it will ‘mean’ anything to them
    • Listen to the podcasts and think about how your own recordings could sound like they could be in the podcast itself