EARS 2

Discover the exciting world of electroacoustic music and learn to make music with sounds.

New Ideas in Sound

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With the invention of recording technology, the way in which people thought about sounds was completely changed. All sounds could be captured, brought into the concert hall and used musically.

Listen to these sounds:

New Sound One

How would you describe this sound?

New Sound Two

Does it sound like anything that you have heard before?

New Sound Three

What is this sound? Where did it come from?

  • Do they sound like anything that you have heard before?
  • Where did they come from?
  • How were they created?

Answer

Recording technology captured the sounds, and sound editing programmes on the computer were used to transform them.

(Curious about EXACTLY how each of these sounds were made? Click here for MORE information.)

New Sound Two: This was made by transposing an original recording of birds and adding reverb. The recording of birds was transposed upwards to eight times its original. A highly reflective reverb was then added to make the sound blur.

New Sound Three: This was made by using time-stretch and transposition. The original sound  (a car driving past) was taken and stretched to make it twice its original length and half its original pitch.

Later, we can combine and organise these sounds to create pieces, for example:

Excerpt of a Piece

This is a short clip of a piece made by combining and organising some of the sounds from above. All of the sounds in this clip can be found as part of the External sound card pack in the Compose with Sounds software.

This is a picture of the session in the Compose With Sounds software. This is how it looks like to edit and combine sounds)

This is a picture of the session in the Compose with Sounds software.
(This is how it looks like to edit and combine sounds).



New Music for a New Age

The world at the end of the 19th and early 20th century was a rapidly changing place. The invention of the motor car and the expansion of factories made the world much louder and busier.

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The FuturistsA group of artists, writers and musicians who felt that traditional music was out of date. They wanted a new style of music for the new technological age in which they were living at the start of the 20th Century.More infoItalian Futurists were excited by all of the new technologies being invented at the beginning of the 20th Century: Cars, telephones, aeroplanes, trains (many of which we take for granted these days).

They felt that traditional music was out of date, boring and stuck in the past. They wanted to create a new style of music that would fit with this new modern world.

Appreciating All Sounds

One of the Futurists, Russolo, LuigiItalian artist and writer who wanted to make music with all sounds. In 1913 he wrote the 'Art of Noises', a leaflet arguing for composers and musicians to use all sounds, especially noise sounds.More infoLuigi Russolo, argued that most music was only made with about four or five different types of sounds:

    • Instruments played with the bow
    • Plucked instruments
    • Brass instruments
    • Woodwind
    • Percussion

He demanded:

“We must break out of this narrow circle of [note] sounds, and conquer the infinite variety of [all] sounds.

Let us therefore invite young musicians of genius and audacity { that’s you! } to listen attentively to all sounds, so that they can understand the varied rhythms [and tones] of which they are composed. […]

Then, when comparing the varied timbres of sounds and noises with those of musical tones, they will be convinced by how much more interesting [all sounds are than the few traditional orchestra sounds].”

OTHERSOUNDS

Listen to some examples of sounds from each category. Which collection of sounds do you prefer? Why?


Orchestral Sounds

Keys

Discrete and contained pitches.

Wind

Steady pitch sound.

Percussion

Mainly only used for emphasis.

Bow

Steady pitch sound.

All Sounds

Ding

Complex vibration and beating.

Crunch

Different textures.

Thud

Solid thump.

Patter

Many small sounds with depth.



New Sounds from New Technology

As the technologies developed and improved throughout the early 20th Century, ever more exciting possibilities for creating music became available.

Schaeffer, Pierrea radio engineer and composer who founded the group that became the GRM (Musical Research Group). He studied sounds and developed the idea of Musique Concrète.More infoPierre Schaeffer was working as a technician at the French radio (RTF) in the 1940s, when he became fascinated with the possibilities of recorded sound. He recorded sounds onto vinyl disks (like LP records) and then explored the transformations that were possible. For example: reversing sounds, transposition, time-stretch and loops.

Using these techniques he invented a style of music which he called Musique ConcrèteA term created by Pierre Schaeffer in 1948 to describe his new music, which started from the concrete sound material, from heard sound.More infoMusique Concrète.

Etude Tourniquets (1948)

An excerpt from one of Pierre Schaeffer's five studies in sound.

Pierre SCHAEFFER dans le studio de la rue de l'Université (1963), Laszlo Ruszka ©INA-GRM

Extra

Inspired by Futurists like Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer made recordings of the city around him and brought them back into the studio to create works of ‘Musique Concrète’. His early work ‘Étude aux chemins de fer’ ['Railway Study'] (made in 1948) used recordings made at a railway depot in Paris.

Using the manipulation techniques that he had experimented with, he sought to transform, collage and explore the rhythmic properties of the railway sounds, creating a work that highlighted the beauty of the sounds themselves.


Summary: New Musical Possibilities

Recording technology changed music forever. Any sound can now be captured, controlled and organised to create new works.

This allows us to do things with sounds that were never before possible, and lets us break free from the limitations of tradition.

Computers give everyone access to tools for sound transformation and organisation, opening up the full world of sounds to all.

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Fact

The majority of music that we hear would not exist without the technology of recording.


References

In 1913, Luigi Russolo published a leaflet called ‘The Art of Noises’ in which he called for a new music – Read his leaflet here.