in Background Noise (Perspectives on Sound Art) 2nd Ed. (Bloomsbury, 2015) pp24-33.
Ch2 - Exposing the Sound Object: Musique Concrèt0e’s Sonic Research.
“To record sound, trap it on media ready for amplification, diffusion, and distribution, through systems of transport and broadcast, is to toy with the present, undo origin, and realign memory.”
Between the two approaches of the time - Cagean and Schaefferian - “a philosophical and methodological split, for each occupies extreme positions in relation to questions of sonic representations and musical meaning.”
Cage emphasised “the very source of sound itself, as objects, electronic circuits, and real bodies.”
- Material objects and their appropriation
“…as listeners we are asked to hear sounds as liberated from traditional representational devices of musical composition through the very material source.”
“Thus we are asked to understand the liberation of sound in relation to material conditions: the material of objects, the material of sounds, the material of our own bodies and the space in which we are positioned.”
But…"musique concrète locates sound’s liberation through ideal configurations, harnessing sound’s intrinsic ambiguity or malleability so as to create distinct auditory experiences abstracted from an original source, beyond or in spite of material reference. Musique concrète underscores the technological mechanics, physics, and inherent nuance of sounds as revealed through the properties of phonograph records, magnetic tape, and the recording studio, loudspeaker, and sound diffusion. Thus, to a certain degree, experimental music’s initial steps oscillate from concentration on a social architecture in which sound figures to a concern with the body of sound as an object in its own right.”
“Musique concrète positions music within a larger sonic syntax based on the manipulation of audio machines and recording media, the cultivation of sound objects and their intrinsic dynamic.”
“…sound as a specimen. A recorded sound could be objectified and scrutinised, magnified, repeated, re-recorded, and played back so as to hear all it’s hidden and potential details, uncovering the inner dynamic nestled inside every instant or particle of sound.”
- see also The Recording Angel - Evan Eisenberg, on objects of sound.
Reduced listening - listening for the purpose of concentrating on the qualities of the sounds themselves, independent of its source or meaning (Chion) - Phenomenological, Essentialism.
“Reduced listening makes accessible the sound object.”
“For the sound object refers back to itself, not sources outside, emphasising the instant of its (re)presentation, thereby fostering a poetics spun from sonic intensities as pure matter broken down into energy by the forces of audio manipulation.”
Parmegiani, Bayle, Henry, Ferrari.
“Whereas MC ‘begins with a prepared sound material, which is moulded into it’s final form by a process of experimentation, trial and error, perhaps following unexpected paths to goals that were never foreseen initially, electronic music [at the Cologne Studios] was composed like traditional music, first being conceived in the mind of the composer, then written down, and finally realised in sound.”
In MC the sound object defines the outcome rather than some preconceived composition.
“Here the composer is more an intuitive engineer in the making of sound objects than a writer of compositions.”
“MC pulls into its sonic net an entire array of sound sources, machines, and archives to condense all such things into a compact musical object.”
“The dissociation of seeing and hearing here encourages another way of listening: we listen to the sonorous forms, without any aim other than that of hearing them better, in order to be able to describe them through an analysis of the content of our perceptions.”
“MC is thus embedded in the mechanics of its own productions as inscription on media whose ultimate presentation requires a “blind listening”.
MC suppresses context
Cage explodes the musical object with materiality and context.
object <<<<< continuum >>>>> context
Perec-ian approach to everyday minutiae
“MC’s cinema of the ear appropriates the mediated flow of data and its storage medium for acoustical renderings. While Cage’s work pulls aside the curtain to reveal the material presence of the musical moment, to make apparent the processes at work in such a way as to democratise sound, MC plus the curtain back in place, operating in darkness so as to bring the ear to the ore of perception - as pure ear devoid of body, for the body is always marked by a sociality full of coded reference.”
“…for Schaeffer the sound object in itself offers the potential for the realisation of an altered and enlightened musical experience, one determined by an expanded palette of sonic details exposed through electronic manipulation.”
“For Cage 'music means nothing as a thing’. In contrast, for Schaeffer, and MC in general, context must disappear in order to arrive at the musical experience, for here music, and by extension sound, is everything as a thing.”
“Thus the beginning of experimental music is marked not only by developing sound as a category, aesthetic and other, but by locating it in relationship to space and the conditions through which listening literally takes place."