Thursday, August 21, 2008

Audio Geek...the acousmatic world...

Acousmatic sound is sound "one hears without seeing their originating cause - a invisible sound source. Radio, phonograph and telephone, all which transmit sounds without showing their emitter are acousmatic media." (from

In the U.S. we don't have much access to the discussion of this idea, or related areas of sound such as phonography, which doesn't refer to the study of phonographs, or a type of stenography, but field recording. Field recording is the recording of ambient sound or "the technique for capturing the audible illustration of an environment, produced outside of a recording studio." (from

Not surprisingly phonography has affiliates in the sound art, sound design, interdisciplinary art, and environmental activist arenas. There are whole libraries devoted to field recordings used by film sound designers and others. There are also festivals and organizations devoted to this field. One, The Elements: A Festival of Nature in Performance, is happening right now, August 20 - 23, 2008 on Gabriola Island, in British Columbia. Canada and Europe have traditionally provided a more welcoming home to sound arts than the U.S. (but that's another story). The festival features a host of artists' works developed from recordings of the natural world of Gabriola Island (pictured above right with Henry Miller quote). Fortunately you don't have to actually be there to hear, and in some cases visually experience, the work. If you go to the festival link listed above and click on the "artists' projects" link on the left-hand side menu, you'll see a listing of the work. Anything that's already premiered may have audio as well as video available. I just listened to Darren Copeland and Andreas Kahre's commissioned project, Fish on Air. Copeland and Kahre used a "Dolphin Ear" commercial underwater recording system to record the marine sounds at five coastal locations on Gabriola Island. My favorite is Silva Bay, where you can hear the air bubbles made by various small marine life such as crabs, and small fish, along with the human and marine sounds of this active port.

• Check this CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) excerpt from The Idea of North (original airdate in 28 December 1967) the first installment of acclaimed Canadian pianist Glenn Gould's Solitude Trilogy a "contrapuntal radio documentary" for the CBC. The trilogy's production represents a key moment in Canadian broadcast history, and provides a compelling marriage of audio documentary, musical composition, spoken word text (Gould's introduction), and phonography.
Article on the Solitude Trilogy and Gould's philosophy from
Video of Gould talking about The Idea of North, and relating its composition to fugue, and the work of composer Anton Webern)

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