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this edition of framework:afield has been produced in portugal by joão castro pinto. producer’s notes:
soundscape composition – between mimesis and abstractionjoão castro pinto, 2021.09
by João Castro Pinto | www.agnosia.me | email@example.com
This radio show is divided in 3 sections, the first dedicated to phonographic and environmental composers, the second to the electroacoustic music composers and the last to experimental composers / performers “freely” working with field recordings. The main purpose of this program is to present an itinerary of different possibilities of composing with field recordings, from the more mimetic to the more abstract points of view, ideally demonstrating that there are distinct approaches to soundscape composition and that the World Soundscape Project is just one of multiple ways to understand and artistically figuring the soundscape.
The WSP was a pedagogical oriented research group harbored at Simon Fraser University, in Canada, founded in the late 60’s by Raymond Murray Schafer. The main interests of this interdisciplinary group were firstly centered in the ecological noise pollution issues and, afterwards, expanded to other activities, such as the creation of soundscape compositions. Their main interest was to study the soundscape, to document its sounds and to use soundscape composition as tool towards the development of a new listening, and ultimately to change the soundscape through an ecological perspective and policies, via acoustic design.
For more in-depth info about the WSP check Keiko Torigoe Master Thesis, entitled: A Study of the World Soundscape Project, 1982, Graduate Program in Music, York University, Toronto, Ontario.
Soundscape composition is a sub-genre of electroacoustic composition that is anchored in what Barry Truax defines as context-based composition. This key idea and the notion of sound event are the two main concepts from which all other subsidiary ideas are derived from, as: hi-fi and low-fi soundscapes; sound signals, keynote sounds, sound marks, schizophonia, etc. In the Tuning of the world, we can confirm these perspectives when Schafer states that:
“[…] the event is not abstractable from the time-and-space continuum which gives its definition. The sound event, like the sound object, is defined by the human ear as the smallest self-contained particle of a Soundscape. It differs from the sound object in that the latter is an abstract acoustical object for study, while the sound event is a symbolic, semantic or structural object for study, and is therefore a non abstractable point of reference, related to a whole of greater magnitude than itself.” (SCHAFER 1977).
Ultimately, according with Barry Truax, SC pieces should ideally provoke a real existential change of attitude / praxis of listener towards his sonic environment. This aim is clearly, as Truax admits, “[…] social and political, as well as artistic.” (TRUAX 2001).
We should observe that both previous assertions are perfectly accordant with the W.S.P. purposes and that, thence, serve the acoustic ecology’s pragmatic tasks in its first and more fundamental aim, i.e., the soundscape pieces intend, specially the first ones (with a phonographic approach) was, as Truax affirms:
“[…] to document acoustic environments, both functional and dysfunctional, and to increase public awareness of the importance of the soundscape, particularly through individual listening sensitivity. […] the goal of soundscape composition is to put ‘acoustic ecology’ on the environmental agenda.” (TRUAX 2008).
According to the World Soundscape Project, soundscape composition and acoustic design are focused in the acoustic ecology purposes and, hence, as such, the practice of soundscape composition is a strategy towards the reintegration of the listener within a more ecological balanced sonic environment. From this intention results that the ecological change of the soundscape is mandatory and it implies to consider that some sounds are preferable to others, for example: bird sounds to noisier sounds from machinery / cars, etc., what Schafer calls high-redundancy sounds. This judgment makes sense in the ecological perspective, but not necessarily in a creative way, for all sounds should be possible to consider in terms of elements for a soundscape composition. Therefore, we do not reduce the soundscape composition to mere mimetic representations, as the existence of different approaches is considerable and multimodal, however, we do not fail to reiterate that the idea of context-based composition implies limitations in terms of musical resources and compositional practices.
There are several epistemological approaches to the study and analysis of soundscape. These include research in the scope of human and social sciences (of an ethnomusicological, anthropological, ecological nature, etc.), but this fact does not subject us to any resulting determinations, as far as soundscape composition practices are concerned. The attempt to reintegrate the listener into the soundscape, defended by a notion of soundscape amplified by ecological concerns and translated into compositional principles, should not hinder creative potentials. The space of the composition does not correspond to the real/topological space of sound events, trying to make these two dimensions correspond is to intentionally subordinate one in relation to the other, ultimately dismantling the specificities and potential of both.
The antithetical aesthetics of acousmatic music and soundscape composition are increasingly intertwined, which means that the fixed barriers, formerly established between both domains, are progressively being diluted. The release of the ecological paradigm allows a repositioning of the practices of soundscape composition in the light of aesthetics, which, in turn, guarantees the possibility of scrutinizing a range of different approaches, which are, however, closely related to the conceptual idea of soundscape composition.
For further information about Hi-fi and Low-Fi Soundscapes / Schizophonia / Sound Marks / Sound Signals / Keynote sounds, etc. check Truax’s Handbook for Acoustic ecology:
[time / artist / track / release / year / label]
00:00 – 01:20 / framework:afield intro
01:20 – 03:26 / E. M. Nicholson & Ludwig Koch / Songs of Wild Birds / 1936 / H. F. & G. Witherby Ltd.
02:54 – 06:32 / Walter Tilgner / Waldkauz-Balz / Animal Music – Sound and Song in the Natural World Book-CD – Edited by Tobias Fischer and Lara Cory / 2015 / Strange Attractor Press
06:13 – 09:29 / Bernie Krause / Amazon Nights / Notes From The Wild – The Nature Recording Expeditions of Bernie Krause / 1996 / Ellipsis Arts – Booklet – CD / NYC.
09:29 – 14:35/World Soundscape Project – Ray Murray Schafer / On Acoustic Design / The Vancouver Soundscape / 1973 / CRS recordings CSR- 2CD – 9701
14:30 – 17:06 / Chris Watson / Stepping into the Dark / Bosque Seco: Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica / 1996 / Touch
16:51 – 20:42 /Hildegard Westerkamp / Kits Beach Soundwalk / Transformations / 1996 / Empreintes DIGITALes – IMED 9631
20:34 – 21:34 / Jana Winderen / The Noisiest Guys on the Planet / 2007 / Ash international. Ash 8.1
21:34 – 24:34 / Jonty Harrison / Espaces Cachés / Voyages / 2016 / Empreintes DIGITALes – IMED 16139
24:26 – 28:16 / Christian Helm / Aporie 2012 / 2012
28:12 – 33:06 / Nikos Stavropoulos / Portrait V / 2016
33:00 – 38:00 / Apostolos Loufopoulos / Secret Coast / 2009
37:44 – 41:04 / Lionel Marchetti / Portrait D’Un Glacier (Alpes, 2173m) / 2001 / Ground Fault Recordings
40:32 – 44:23 / Darius Ciuta / l2di-(3) / 2014 / Unfathomless – U21
44:04 – 49:05 / Eric La Casa + Eamon Sprod / Friche : transition 3 / Friche : transition / 2019
48:45 – 53:13 / Terje Paulsen / From a nearby bay / 2015 / Taâlem – alm 109
53:07 – 58:20 / João Castro Pinto / à-τόπος / The No Land Soundscape / 2020 / Hemisphäreの空虚
58:20 – 59:00 / framework:afield outro
In-depth Short Bibliography for Soundscape Composition
Pinto, J. C. (2012). What is a Soundscape Composition: towards a paradigmatic definition. Emille – Journal of Korean Electroacoustic Music Society, vol. X, KEAMS, South Korea, 43-53.
Pinto, J. C. (2013). Soundscape Composition as a Genre of Electroacoustic Music – an analysis on the origins, goals and constraints of the soundscape composition concept / praxis. Proceedings of the Symposium on Acoustic Ecology 2013, University of Kent, Medway, Kent, England, UK, 1-14.
SCHAFER, R. M., The New Soundscape – A Handbook for the Modern Music Teacher. Berandol Music Limited, Ontario, Canada, 1969.
SCHAFER, R. M., Tuning of the World. New York: Knopf. (Republication: The Soundscape – our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. 1994) 1977.
TRUAX, B. Acoustic Communication. 2nd ed. Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing, 2001.
TRUAX, B. Genres and Techniques of Soundscape Composition as Developed at Simon Fraser University. Organised Sound 7/1: 514. Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
TRUAX, B. Sound, Listening and Place: The Aesthetic Dilemma. Organised Sound 17/3: 193201. Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
TRUAX, B. Soundscape Composition as Global Music: Electroacoustic Music as Soundscape, Organised Sound, 13(2), 103- 109, 2008.