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Sound Research - Seminar 1

Seeing is believing

Barry Truax:
No field of study based on sensory experience seems to be overburdened by terminology to the same extent as that dealing with sound and hearing. The visual sense, of course, has received as much attention as the auditory from physics, psychology, neurophysiology, and the visual arts, which have all contributed terminology and jargon alike, but a great deal of it seems to have entered the common vocabulary already, and at least the general notions involved are seldom foreign to the average citizen or student. Terms such as perspective, foreground, background, colour, spectrum, shadow, focus, image, reflection, transparent, translucent and the wealth of descriptive visual terms, not to mention common visual impairments and the complexity of visual language found in contemporary cinema and photography - all of these have found public familiarity in a way that it is hard to imagine their sonic counterparts ever matching. Almost every school child knows what white light is, and how it is composed, but would he know what white noise is, even though the likelihood of it having an adverse effect on him is far greater? The ability to perceive three-dimensional visual perspective when projected onto a two-dimensional surface, by no means a simple achievement given the lateness of its appearance in our civilization, is irrevocably ingrained in the child's perceptual habits at an early age, and yet the ability to distinguish acoustic parameters, or experience subtle nuances of timbre (supposing he knows what timbre, the sonic equivalent of colour, is) may never be among his perceptual skills

Liugi Russolo: The Art Of Noise (1913)


We invite all the truly gifted and bold young musicians to analyze all noises so as to understand their different composing rhythms, their main and their secondary pitches. Comparing these noise sounds to other sounds they will realize how the latter are more varied than the former. Thus the comprehension, the taste, and the passion for noises will be developed. Our expanded sensibility will gain futurist ears as it already has futurist eyes. In a few years, the engines of our industrial cities will be skillfully tuned so that every factory is turned into an intoxicating orchestra of noises.

I am not a musician, so that I have no acoustic preferences, nor works to defend. I am a futurist painter who projects on a profoundly loved art his will to renew everything. This is why, bolder than the bolder professional musician, totally unpreoccupied with my apparent incompetence, knowing that audacity gives all prerogatives and all possibilities, I have conceived the renovation of music through the Art of Noise.

WalterRuttmann: Weekend (1930)


"Everything audible in the world becomes material" - Tones and sounds should exist in their own right. For Weekend they were recorded as arbitrary and intentional elements on the soundtrack of an optical sound film using the so-called Tri-Ergon process. For the first time an artistic radio production was created whose material could be assembled and designed according to rhythmic, musical principles.

Sound and space: hear the shape of a drum

Knowledge of the world is conveyed to us by diverse signals impacting our senses. While our auditory system is adapted to linear waves travelling in air, our ears are capable of recording the results of a wider class of propagating displacements, which may be conveyed by any physical or unphysical laws, in any spaces we can imagine, provided they can be translated into perceivable vibrations. Conversely, such sensations carry information about the spaces, forms, and dynamics that have left their imprint upon the signals passing through them. This notion has been at the center of applications and of fundamental questions in geometry, concerning the degree to which the shape of a space is encoded in such signals -- whether one can, for example, "hear the shape of a drum".

Golo Föllmer:
In the twentieth century, the spatiality of sound gained new significance. Space locations and movements had not been treated as design parameters in the theoretical reflection of music for a long time, although they had, for example, already been specifically implemented by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli in sixteenth century Venice. Following attempts made by Gustav Mahler and Charles Ives, Edgard Varčse elevated space to a central category by striving to physically materialize his music in eachindividual sound. By implementing the orchestra in a special way he allowed music to move in space, thus moving it close to sculptural and choreographic works.

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