Acoustic Lens

Many events in our everyday experience have their own sound, but usually we pay little attention to most of them. Some are produced by our bodies (e.g growls, laughter or sobbing, spoken voice); others depend on aerodynamic events (e.g. exploding balloon), vibrating solids (e.g slamming door, a scraping fingernail, a breaking glass, footsteps, etc.), events involving liquids (e.g dripping and splashing). Furthermore, dynamically varied data referring to non-acoustic events displaced in time can be “translated” into sounds by means of mapping algorithms, even though they don’t bear a direct relationship to music.

Interestly enough, a spoken voice, an exploding balloon, a scraping fingernail as well as a set of sonified data can be all analyzed in terms of rhythmic, melodic and harmonic patterns evoking tensions, resolutions, expectancy. That is, non-musical events may be described in terms of musical dimensions unveiling, in some cases, unexpected sonic qualities despite of their loose bound to music.

Nowdays, our voracious appetites for finding fuel for inspiration lead us to seize many of such events. A symphony on Wall street data, the speech of a political leader integrated in a minimalist rap, a braking glass orchestrated for an instrumental ensemble, almost any real-world event can be rewritten in musical terms and aggressively assimilated into a predefined aesthetic framework.
But what about if we retract the claws and refuse the probing of the colonizer?
What about if we try to seek for a balance between the dominant ambitions of our artistic ego and the echological urgency to be somehow respectful in sourcing and manipulating non-musical events for musical purposes?

If part of the energy or emotion associated to a non-musical event survives to the process of sonic translation, we might experience a kind of an “amplification” of the event, instead of just a music inspired by the event itself.

Most of the time, the acoustic structures of such “amplified reality” seem unlikly to be considered as music. Yet, the results might sound strangely familiar as to be rooted into a different albeit not alien logics.

Such a path is indeed lined with paradoxes. On one hand, the composer should temper his/her ego in order to preserve the the inner and original essence of an event. But on the other hand, a sonic translation of a non-musical event need to be presented as an artist's choice in order to emerge from the background noise of our daily existence. Moreover, the acoustic rendering of a non-acoustic phenomenon still implies choices on a wide range of music parameters (e.g. timbres, event interacions, etc.) which ought to remain under the control of the artist’s ego.

Ultimately, the path I am outlining here might not target a certain destination, but rather aims to point out an attitude in composing by listening to real-world “affordances”.

No rule of thumb has proven to be successful yet, but in the meanwhile I feel thrilled in shifting my self-righteous tendency as an artist in favor of a humble craftsmanship in making some of the world (still) muted fragments udible.
(Fabio Cifariello Ciardi)


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Fabio Cifariello Ciardi