Monday, November 1, 2010

Unexplained Sounds

I obviously can't speak for everyone, but I think part of what draws some people to electronic music is the exploration of new sounds. Creating mysterious, new sounds that have never been heard before is pretty awesome, you've got to admit. The only problem with this is that it assumes we've all heard it all before - that there's nothing in our natural surroundings that we have heard before. When you consider how narrow the human range of hearing is, though, it seems obvious that there are most likely millions of sounds we've never heard before because they're too low frequency, too high frequency, too fast, or too slow

Fortunately, there are scientists from all over the world studying just these sort of sounds, and I personally find it really fascinating. It you want to find out more about The Bloop, The Hum, and Slow Down, among others, this Wikipedia entry is a good first place to check out. And if you enjoy that, check out this older entry I wrote about Number Stations or this one I wrote about Backwards Music Stations. (Granted, both of those are generated by man and not nature, but I still find them fascinating.)


fractured said...

Tom, this strikes me as rather good timing. I was just thinking about how little opportunity there seems to be to turn music on its end these days.

You and I are from an age where synthesis had just moved out of the labs and into popular music. We were witness to the first music that made use of sampled sounds. We heard how some people were caught up in the kitchiness of it, and others explored the depth of this rich new tool.

The prog rock of the seventies and synthpop of the early eighties was the end of experimentation and the beginning of homogenization of the synthesizer sounds. "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was the opening shot on the new battleground. When I heard how Skinny Puppy wove their horror movie samples and strange ambiences together to create an otherworldly sonic sculpture, I was awed. This was a new dawning and I was there at the beginning.

Now, there seems to be so little that is truly new. I am searching for something to differentiate the sounds of today from what has been used. It seems people have looked back at old techniques, added some distortion, thrown things into loops, put them through grain systems, and called it new. What is next? Where else can we find sounds? How do we make it different?

I've been listening to ambiences. The space that things happen in have their own identities. We have captured them with impulse responses, but I feel there has been little more done with them. Perhaps there is a way to find tonal elements in these places and bring them out? Maybe we can find the resonances in these spaces and put them together into their own sounds. It's all about the sound we hear in any given place, taken out of context and used as an instrument.

This is just me rambling about an idea that I've been considering. Somehow, at this late hour, it seemed to make sense after seeing your post.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Tom, right on!