Found Sound

utilisation of found sound as a musical resource was starting to be explored. An early example is Parade, a performance produced at the Chatelet Theatre, Paris, on May 18, 1917, that was conceived by Jean Cocteau, with design by Pablo Picasso, choreography by Leonid Massine, and music by Eric Satie. The extra-musical materials used in the production were referred to as trompe l’oreille sounds by Cocteau and included a dynamo, Morse code machine, sirens, steam engine, airplane motor, and typewriters. Arseny Avraamov’s compositionSymphony of Factory Sirens involved navy ship sirens and whistles, bus and car horns, factory sirens, cannons, foghorns, artillery guns, machine guns, hydro-airplanes, a specially designed steam-whistle machine creating noisy renderings of Internationale and Marseillaise for a piece conducted by a team using flags and pistols when performed in the city of Baku in 1922. In 1923,Arthur Honegger created Pacific 231, a modernist musical composition that imitates the sound of a steam locomotive. Another example is Ottorino Respighi’s 1924 orchestral piece Pines of Rome, which included the phonographic playback of a nightingale recording. Also in 1924, George Antheil created a work titled Ballet Mécanique with instrumentation that included 16 pianos, 3airplane propellers, and 7 electric bells. The work was originally conceived as music for the Dada film of the same name, by Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger, but in 1926 it premiered independently as a concert piece.

In 1930 Paul Hindemith and Ernst Toch recycled records to create sound montages and in 1936 Edgard Varèse experimented with records, playing them backwards, and at varying speeds. Varese had earlier used sirens to create what he called a “continuous flowing curve” of sound that he could not achieve with acoustic instruments. In 1931, Varese’s Ionisation for 13 players featured 2 sirens, a lions’s roar, and used 37 percussion instruments to create a repertoire of unpitched sounds making it the first musical work to be organized solely on the basis of noise. In remarking on Varese’s contributions the American composer John Cage stated that Varese had “established the present nature of music” and that he had “moved into the field of sound itself while others were still discriminating ‘musical tones’ from noises”.

In an essay written in 1937, Cage expressed an interest in using extra-musical materials and came to distinguish between found sounds, which he called noise, and musical sounds, examples of which included: rain, static between radio channels, and “a truck at fifty miles per hour”. Essentially, Cage made no distinction, in his view all sounds have the potential to be used creatively. His aim was to capture and control elements of the sonic environment and employ a method of sound organisation, a term borrowed from Varese, to bring meaning to the sound materials. Cage began in 1939 to create a series of works that explored his stated aims, the first being Imaginary Landscape #1 for instruments including two variable speed turntables with frequency recordings.

In 1961, James Tenney composed Analogue #1: Noise Study (for tape) using computer synthesized noise and Collage No.1 (Blue Suede) (for tape) by sampling and manipulating a famous Elvis Presley recording.

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About Michael Hunter Photography

Photographer from glasgow
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