The focus of the session was on different approaches to sound as a medium. What Ed means by this is the abstract conceptual manner of seeing sound.
He started with Walter Murch’s categorisation of sound, relating it to colour.
I always find it interesting how sound, music and colour are often correlated. Kodaly is another example of this idea as in his pedagogical work. I would leave the colour aspect out of this discussion and concentrate simply on the semiotic aspect which seems what this diagram tries to convey. There are so many ways of classifying sounds. I have to bear in mind that Murch is a film sound editor. However, the point is to think about sound in terms of its affect and the information it encodes: emotive, descriptive, semantic, associative, allusive, illusive and how these modes are conveyed. Fore example, are they conveyed through rhythm or pitch, distinctive or chaotic? There are so many ways of looking at the matter but in the end I feel the important thing is thinking about sound in terms of its affect, the reason for that affect, how the sound is made, and the context in which or for which it is created.
We looked at musique concrete, starting with Pierre Schaeffer and his first work Etude aux Chemins de Fer 1948, who attempted to categorise sound in his Traité des Objects Musicaux. Michel Chion wrote a guide in English where he lists sounds and their qualities as experienced: PDF.
Musique concrete treats sound as abstract objects each with its own qualities. Particularly intriguing was Bernard Parmegiani’s De Natura Sonorum from 1973 composed using the altered sounds of rubber bands using analogue tape, filters, real echo chambers, delays and altering the tape speed.
Diagetic sound is almost the opposite of this. It is associated with a visual cue as though the situation portrayed is the source of the sound. Musique concrete decouples the corporeality of the sound for it to become the corpus of sensation itself. In a conceptual sense, it has no source other than its own sound. The way it is made may be a curiosity or of methodological interest but in its truest essence only a vehicle. It is as an Acousmatic experience in which the cause and origins of the sound are removed so one can concentrate on its sensations and qualities.
Ed introduced the idea of copyright as a ‘spanner in the work’ and then goes on to give some examples of postmodernist sound collages where recording are appropriated to create mixes. Whereas in the case of John Cage’s 1953 mix, in which each situational element is recorded in his own house over a period of time, here we are talking about taking pre-existing recording and butting them either as live performance or recordings. The copyright situation is complex here depending on duration of play, recognisability of the segments taken and in the case of live performance, proof of actual appropriation. Perhaps that is why one of the people doing this uses discs. Ed describes each discrete segment as the ‘cultural grain’ of the whole rather than musique concrete’s sonic texture. It is interesting to look at it in those terms.
Below are a list of Ed’s links
- Pierre Schaeffer: Etudes de Bruit, 1948
- Pierre Henry: Variations for a Door and a Sigh, 1963
- Book: Michel Chion: Guide des Objects Sonores, 1993. English translation by John Dack, 2009: Guide to Sound Objects
John Cage: Williams Mix
- Wikipedia entry for Williams Mix
- Notes for Dafeldecker “Williams Mix Extended” version with score extract
- John Cage: Williams Mix, 1953
- Dafeldecker’s Williams Mix Extended site with an extract from the piece
Williams Mix used sounds recorded by Louis and Bebe Barron (of Forbidden Planet fame) in 6 categories, organised according to the I-Ching using a 193 page score.
Note: see the notes below the Youtube clip for the track listings, as these are entire albums of work!
- Bernard Parmegiani: De Natura Sonorum (trans. The Nature of Sound), 1975
- Jean-Claude Risset: Sud, 1985. Note that this is interesting in that it shows the spectral display (sonogram) of the work as it is playing.
- Robert Normandeau: Tangram, 1994
Culture Jamming / Appropriation of Recorded Media
- Christian Marclay performs on the short-lived Night Music TV show, 1989
- Christian Marclay: Record Without a Cover, 1985
- Christian Marclay is represented by White Cube gallery
- Nic Collins: Rhythm Wish for drums and skipping CD player, performed in 2016
- The Tape Beatles: Music With Sound, 1990. This was released as a public domain release (before Creative Commons existed) to circumvent copyright law.
- The Tape Beatles Wikipedia page and official website
- John Oswald: Dab taken from Alien Chasm Jock, 1989. Oswald was ordered to recall the CD and destroy it along with the master tapes
- John Oswald: Plexure, 1993. As stated on the CD sleeve: No rights to the appropriate copyright owners, as everything here has been genuinely stolen.
- Audacity is a free audio editor and compositor for Windows, Mac and Linux
- Pure Data is an open-source, free realtime audio synthesis and processing environment for Linux, Mac and Windows. You may wish to start with Pure Data.