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
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
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)