R. Murray Schafer on early soundscapes of nature, organics, rural life, city life, industrial revolution, electric revolution, music… historic and current journey of acoustic ecology

  • Features of the Soundscape (p. 9):
    • Keynote: sound created by geography & climate. Water, wind, forest, plains, birds, insects and animals.
    • Signals: foreground sounds, listened to consciously. Often warning devices: bells, whistles, horns, sirens and may carry elaborate coded information
    • Soundmark: unique community sound, possesses qualities that make it noticeable by the people in the community.
  • Schizophonia (p. 90): the splitting of sounds from their original contexts (original sound vs. its electroacoustic reproduction)
  • On Quadraphonics and 360 sound (p. 91) “the quadraphonic sound system has made possible a 360-degree soundscape of moving and stationary sound events which allows any sound environment to be simulated in time and space. This provides for the complete portability of acoustic space. Any sonic environment can now become any other sonic environment”
  • On Radios (p. 91): “A character in one of JL Borges’ stories dreads mirrors because they multiply men. The same might be said about radios” […] “Modern life has been ventriloquized”
  • Audioanalgesia: sound as a painkiller or distraction – background music, background noise (like A/C). These are masking sounds no meant to be listened to consciously.
  • On Soundscapes permeating into Concert Halls (p. 104) – How classical music emulates pastoral sound (land) scapes through some solo instruments to emulate birdsong, seasons, time of day. Flutes and horns are used symbolically as freedom, hope, love, the outdoor, or memory. Full Orchestra is thicker, dense, city life.
  • On music and musique concrète (p.111) “If there is a noise pollution problem in the world today it is certainly partly and maybe largely owing to the fact that music educators have failed to give the public a total schooling in soundscape awareness, which has, since 1914, ceased to be divisible into musical and nonmusical kingdoms”
  • On Aural Space (p. 115) – Chart of threshold of hearing comparing frequency (20Hz – 20kHz) and sound intensity (0dB – 130dB) and in what ranges different music sits. “Localization of the sound source is more difficult with low-frequency sounds, and music stressing such sounds is both darker in quality and more directionless in space. Instead of facing the sound source the listener seems immersed in it.”
  • On Classification and Analysis (p. 133) – Techniques of analysis must lead to improvement, judgement and invention. We discover similarities, contrasts and patterns. “Consider the dictionary – words slashed from their contexts and arbitrarily arranged according to their attack sounds. Yet, when used properly, the dictionary can contribute to the improvement of the language and can even provide us with inchoate thoughts and aesthetic moments.”
    • Sound may be classified in (p.148)
      • Acoustics – their physical characteristics
      • Psychoacoustics – how we perceive them
      • Semiotics and Semantics – their function and meaning
      • Aesthetics – their emotional or affective qualities
  • On Perception of a wide range of sounds (p.157). The Three-Stage Plan divides the sound scene into. The first is to be listened to, the others are to be heard:
    • The Immediate: foreground, protagonist ‘voice’
    • The Support: sounds taking place in immediate vicinity, have direct bearing on subject at hand
    • The Background: set the general [auditory] scene
  • On single sounds vs. textures (p.159) – “the aggregate sound of a texture is not merely a simple sum of a lot of individualistic sounds – it is something different!”
  • On Symbolism (p.170)
    • Water symbolises cleansing, purification, refreshment, renewal. The ocean and waves can symbolise eternity, tides represent change
    • Wind is devious, we cannot tell where it comes from, it is not to be trusted.
    • The Bell – can act as a force for gathering or scattering.
  • On Acoustic Ecology and Acoustic Design (p.205) – Important to unify the science of sound and the art of sound. This will result in the development of the interdisciplines:
    • Acoustic ecology: sounds in relationship to life and society
    • Acoustic design: the sounds of the world are regarded as a composition. We choose what to preserve, encourage and multiply.
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