Harnessing the Imagination: Between the Real and Abstract

Megan Reich

From https://scalar.usc.edu/works/soundscape-composition-as-environmental-activism-and-awareness-an-ecomusicological-approach/harnessing-the-imagination-between-the-real-and-abstract#_ftn7

As Parmar implies, the meeting of the soundscape composer’s personal vision with the recorded material puts the soundscape composition at a juncture, between the imaginary and real. The first element of this “meeting,” the composer’s personal experience, yields to Hildegard Westerkamp’s remark that a soundscape composition is inherently colored by the unique choices a composer makes. These choices will vary with the composer’s “cultural, social and political background and experiences, by age and gender, musical taste, past experiences with various soundscapes, as well as the present life situation.”[1] Another aspect of the composer’s experience that is worth noting is the extended knowledge a composer has with the soundscape if they were present for the recording itself. Factors such as “the smells, the air, the temperature, the time of day, the atmosphere, the feel of a place, the season, the social situation and significantly, the changes that occur when a microphone enters a space” all have the potential to shape decisions made during the compositional process.[2]


[1] Westerkamp, Hildegard. “Linking soundscape composition and acoustic ecology.” Organised Sound 7, no. 01 (2002): 51-56.
[2] Westerkamp, Ibid.
[3] Westerkamp, Ibid.
[4] Adams, John Luther. Winter music: composing the North. Wesleyan University Press, 2004.
[5] Adams, Ibid.
[6] Adams, Ibid.
[7] Adams, Ibid.
[8] Adams, John Luther. The place where you go to listen: In search of an ecology of music. Wesleyan University Press, 2010.
[9] Parmar, Robin. “The garden of adumbrations: reimagining environmental composition.” Organised Sound 17, no. 03 (2012): 202-210.
[10] Kolber, David. “Hildegard Westerkamp’s Kits Beach Soundwalk: shifting perspectives in real world music.” Organised Sound 7, no. 01 (2002): 41-43.
[11] Westerkamp, Hildegard. “Listening and soundmaking: A study of music-as-environment.” PhD diss., Simon Fraser University, 1988.
[12] Norman, Katherine. “Real-World Music as Composed Listening.” Contemporary Music Review, Vol. 15, Part 1 (1996).
[13] Norman, Ibid.

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