The Composer uses Sound to Articulate Relationship with Environment.

Composers engaging with the mental, physical, collaborative and environmental processes of music making, embody concerns that are recurring in music and sound art today. The use of technologies to generate, simulate and sonify sounds in the environment is also pointing beyond issues of performance practice and instrument design. The environment? Humans are part of complex interconnected ecosystems in constant flux. The composer? Organising sound and making audible the inaudible, can help articulate these relationships through music rather than human language.

Alvin Lucier made the physical qualities of sound in space come alive through his compositions and installations, Pauline Oliveros took the idea of deep listening to finely attune the musicians consciousness to sound, David Dunn takes the composer outdoors into interaction with animal and insect sonic ecologies. Music today is ready to open up these territories, to explore connected consciousness and emergent behaviours through networks, to use sound to explore connections with other non-human ecologies, to instigate an environmental role for technology in electronic music, to consider the mind and body as central to the character of music making, to use sonification of humanly inaudible technological systems to open up areas of sound that increase our understanding of the sonic environment.

Primarily, this work aims to situate the composer as a sonic practitioner, researcher and visionary who uses tools and technologies as ways to extend the human interaction with the larger natural environment. For example the composer might look into the military use of sonar in the context of the marine biologist monitoring cetacean communication through sound. The composer might listen to recordings of natural environments not as sounds in themselves but as complex emergent systems of communication through sound. Researching new technologies in this way, the composer might explore potentials of absorbing them into a techno-intuition.

In seeking this position the composer must build on the already re-thought roles and established musical concepts. Over the last forty years, different kinds of relationships have been forged between composer, instrumentalist and listener. The musical score has been re-conceptualised as a changeable communication medium for a project. Issues of time and space are no longer separate considerations but are conflated in the process of composition and experience of music and installation. The visual relates to the audible, not in a static form of notation through a score, or audio-visual electronics, but through perception and understanding of intermedia not as additive but as complementary inextricable aspects of a whole. Instrumental sound, electronic sound, environmental sound, and language form the acoustic palette and their combination raises questions of aesthetic choice and communication. Instruments may need to be custom built as part of the composer’s process to open imaginations and start discussions on our place within the soundscape. Most importantly the environment composer uses sound and music as an articulator of relationship and as a catalyst for understanding.

Yolande Harris, 14/12/2008 Amsterdam