I am listening, more than usual, to recordings of soundscapes, soundscape compositions, sound art … sculpted ‘noise’. There are many recordings to listen to from a spreading array of intriguing minds. More each day, each hour, each minute. I will never hear them all.
While listening this moment on myspace, doing curatorial research, to a series of composition excerpts of a brilliant sound artist, I drifted out of focus, and thought, ‘anything can be interesting’. Or not. With what is called sound art, of interest is the content of the sound itself … its references, the sensations it conjures … the microscopic focus on sounds we don’t normally have in consciousness … On the other hand, the technical skill and aesthetic choices of the artist.
In the case of field recordings, what is the microphone ‘pointed’ at, how is the recording edited, what are the qualities of the microphones and data recorder … That dance between the sonic event – the listened – and the recording.
Listening to sound art and soundscape composition enhances my listening to the sounds in my world and my awareness of micro and macro sonic elements of the all sounds I attend to. I notice that this listening has enhanced the scope of my musical playing, improvisations – both alone and in group situations.
It is interesting playing around a schism between what is perceived as musical gesture, and what is more sonic play that has no discernible relation to typical musical gesture. Increasingly, my playing tends to be more in tune with the sounds I hear that are not typically thought of as musical. Noise, sonic phenomena, machine sounds, animal cries, nuances I remember from soundscape, soundart pieces … A resemblance, but not mimicry or intention toward replication. After playing, I recognize that the sonic references could be, say, the coffee grinder, squeaking glass, crickets and frogs, a moose, electricity crackling through the ether, a fog horn, a doppler-ing float plane, my nervous system, water gurgling down the kitchen drain, mice, insects scurrying through dry leaves. Even the musical gesture that can be sometimes present in making these sounds is drifting away toward a different kind of exploration, an expression that is refreshingly free from emotional content. More like a sounding, resounding. Purely sonic and raw, animistic or machinistic – moving from a kind of glorious full sonic soaring, to subtle tiny hints at pre-sound.
I resist melody, beat, harmony more and more. When melody, beat, harmony, modality appear, there is a dance between whether they provide a kind of colour or counterpoint to the purely sonic, and are heard in that way, or if they morph the flow into something that begins to frame or structure or develop the flow into a more understandably ‘musical’ and human-centred world. The place between the worlds of the raw sonic and the expressive musical is rich and alive. It maintains a sense of the sublime when the nuance and power of the raw sonic doesn’t disappear.
Listening to anything can be interesting. I like getting pulled into something that is delicious, compelling, other worldly when my listening is deep.