Blackburn, M (2017) Other people’s sounds: examples and implications of borrowed audio. In: Electroacoustic Music Studies Network Conference, 4 - 8 Sep 2017, Nagoya, Japan.

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The starting point for much electroacoustic music is the capture of audio from the sounding world around us. Recorded sound (field and studio recordings) provides the composer with pliable audio data, inspiration and impetus for the creation of new work. The content of these audio files varies widely to include sounds from musical instruments, inanimate objects, spoken languages and environmental landscapes. Composers working in the field of electroacoustic music and all its associated formats and subgenres (soundscape, live laptop improvisation, acousmatic and noise-based to name a few) are reliant on the presence of audio, whether it be from synthesized or recorded sources, in order to move forward with a new work. Sound’s fundamentality to the composition of electroacoustic music is clearly understood within this discourse, but what is less clear and defined are the finer details relating to external sound sourcing, especially when the composer looks beyond their own materials, to others and/or digital resources (eg. Sound archives, sound libraries and sound maps) for this starting point inspiration. On the surface, it can seem that by removing the sound recording stage of the process, the composer forfeits a direct connection with the physical source, along with memories of this sound-capturing act. On the other hand, for some, skipping this step is not even an option, especially for composers who pride themselves on their well-honed microphone techniques and noise-minimizing skills, since the recording of ones own sound may be viewed as the first stage of the compositional process in which a compositional imprint is firmly forged and found. A given composer may have a recording ‘style’ or pattern, and this approach to recording can seep into his/her choice of sound materials. Take the example of a soundscape artist who braves the wind and rain with their highly specialized and adapted recording equipment. Their techniques for shielding their microphone from direct gusts and torrential downpours provides a striking contrast to the composer who inserts lavalier microphones into a bottle of fizzy water to capture the liquid’s microscopic effervescence within the calm, acoustically dry recording studio. In short, a composer can choose and create what sounds they want to work with in order to achieve specific, personalised end results. Chris Watson’s recording expertise comes to mind in this instance with his skillful use of ‘super compact particle velocity microphones’ to capture minute, barely-there caterpillar sounds . Sound recordings can be in some way a reflection of the composer’s personal aesthetic, demonstrating creative planning at a very early stage in the compositional process. Contrary to this, there are a number of instances where composers choose not to work with sounds they directly collected, some in fact never record their own sound, as found in the numerous cases of sampling or plundering. Composers who seek out existing pre-recorded sources juggles their own creative integrity with the often-requisite sense of homage or respect assumed in these situations. This paper chooses to take on this issue, searching for specific examples, circumstances and outcomes of sound borrowing. Issues of sound quality, personal preference and dealing with dated or cultural remnants all undoubtedly arise when examining viewpoints and musical outputs of composers using other people’s sounds.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2019 13:34
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2019 13:36

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