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Rated: E · Essay · Music · #2076713
Essay about the difference between something acoustical and electronical...
Olga Krashenko

Electro-acoustic music as lost sound

While listening for the first time to Xenakisâ electro-acoustic composition "Concret PH" without knowing the title or how it was composed, I was amazed by the unusual liveliness of the sound. What I heard in my musical imagination was a sonic polyphony of disintegrating glass splinters. That polyphony, that combination, in spite of my various associations to other sound samples (the sound of processed glass is a far from a rare phenomenon in such music), sounded like nothing else I had heard before...

Even more so than while listening to Xenakisâ great work, I was quite literally astonished when I heard practically the same sound world âliveâ - it was the sound of numerous little coals disintegrating from burning logs on our fire place. When all is still not burned, if you stir the coals, then the red-black light music starts... If 200 years ago, when all people knew very well what was the sound of a wood burning stove or a fireplace, if somebody had been able to play for them âConcret PHâ of Xenakis, the listener might well have responded after listening to the piece: "Sit down, brother, let's drink a tea and you will hear that such "electro-acoustic music" plays every God's day in our house..."

Who remembers today, for example, the sound of numerous movements of ants in a big anthill? If it is not announced that it is an anthill, will it not also be electro-acoustic music for our ears?

When we use a modern audio listening format such as the loud speaker or headphones, the difference between an acoustical, concrete and electronic sound, made with the help of various computer programs, can be easily lost. If I don't recognize, for example, that the sound I am listening to comes from, originally, a recording of the cry of some wild bird or the sound of burning log coals, then the reaction is as follows: "Oh, it is electro-acoustic music!» When I develop a new extended technique with a musical instrument or voice that sounds very strange or unusual, who amongst typical listeners will then recognize the sound as purely acoustical? What are the criteria for judging a sound to be acoustical as opposed to electronic? If the acoustical sound that my instrumental composition has produced is very rich and unfamiliar, people will often ask me which computer program I used to produce it.

It turns out that, in a certain sense, we perceive what we call electronic sound to be a sound foreign to our life experience, a certain sonic phenomenon that we didn't find in our own past listening and, therefore, we are even ready to superimpose on it the label of âartificialâ sound... However, if one day, all those sounds that we have lost?

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