READING SOUNDS or
AN ESSAY ON SOUNDS, MUSIC, KNOWLEDGE, ROCK & SOCIETY
by Philip Tagg
This paper was originally written for L'Unità (PCI daily) where it appeared (in Italian) in two parts in August 1986.
It was part of their coverage of the publication in Italian of Murray Schafer's The Tuning of the World.
It then appeared as a 13-page IASPM-Norden Working Paper in 1987 (13 pp.).
It was subsequently revised for publication in November Books / RéR Megacorp's magazine
Ré Records Quarterly, 3/2 (ed. Chris Cutler, 1990, pp. 4-11).
have no earlids | Sounds and music: louder and more
| Sounds, music and the public conscious |
The soundscape and music | Life is loud | Figure/ground = melody/accompaniment | Filtering the soundscape |
Who runs the soundscape? | Who runs time? | Rock music: an anthropological necessity? |
Rock and soundscape | Rock and clock | Heroes of rock | So what? |
Bibliography | Soundscape terms | Endnotes |
§1. Nonverbal sound is important to humans. The human brain monitors it constantly from the age of minus 5 months until deafness or death takes over. The newborn baby's hearing is infinitely more developed than its sight and prenatal sound experiences are perhaps a basic element in our sense of rhythm and time. Nonverbal sound is, together with the sense of touch, one of the most important sources of information and contact with the social and natural environments at the most formative stages of any individual's development. It is vital to sensomotoric and symbolic learning processes at the preverbal stage of development and central to the formation of the basic personality we carry through life.2
§2. Nonverbal sound enters our heads incessantly because, as Murray Schafer points out in his The Tuning of the World, we have no earlids. Whereas eyes can be shut and senses of touch, taste and smell be effectively dulled during states of coma, sleep, anaesthetic, etc., ears cannot be closed, hearing never switched off. This is presumably why I rely more on an alarm clock than on the sun to be at work in time or why it is not advisable to throw a tray of surgical instruments on to the floor during a brain operation.
§3. In The Tuning of the World, Schafer also provides a vivid description of how modern industrialised society "developed" its sonic environment or "soundscape". According to Schafer, our soundscape is not only much louder than that of any other culture in time or place, but is also characterised by incessant "lo-fi" broad-band noises, such as mains hum, ventilators, distant traffic the disk drive in front of me issues a permanent as well as irritating F# minor triad , noises which came in with the industrial, electric or electronic revolutions and which have probably had as revolutionary an effect on our culture as the better known aspects of those revolutions.
§4. If our culture is the most sound-saturated ever and anywhere, it must also surely be the most music-mad. Leaving aside the more far-reaching social-cultural and psychosocial aspects of sound and music for the time being, we could say that if decibels, herz, duration, etc. can measure certain readily quantifiable aspects of our soundscape, then money and time might be good ways of quantifying the importance of music.
§5. The average Swede (babies, pensioners and the deaf included) spends over $70 a year on musical commodities and, like the Italians, around 3.5 hours a day with music, while the US music business has an annual turnover of around $4.5 billion, a figure outstripping the GNP of many "third world" nations.3
§6. In short: my daughter (12 years) has probably heard more music than my grandfather did throughout his entire lifetime.
§7. Nonverbal sound, including music, occupies a central position in industrialised society. This position is not the same as that given to the study of such sound in our schools or universities. Music occupies at best an hour a week on the school timetable and specialist education in that symbolic system is either restricted to the almost exclusive study of motoric skills or to the perpetuation of models which in one way or another seem to divorce music from the rest of human activity. These tendencies result in curious paradoxes like the fact that persons capable of providing highly competent descriptions of moods and scenarios elicited by merely listening to film music regard themselves as "unmusical", just because they do not play a traditional musical instrument or sing in a choir.
§8. The official status accorded studies of nonverbal and "non-musical" sound is even lower. Schafer's "Ear Cleaning" and soundscape research are conspicuous by their absence in the public conscious and its institutions. This is underlined by the fact that when Schafer's investigators were documenting North American literary references to sounds, they had to interpret the decreasing number of references to technological sounds as evidence of their increasing presence. The obvious paradox is that our conceptual evaluation of the importance of nonverbal sound (including music) is totally out of line with the actual importance such sound is accorded through the real sonic practices of our culture.
§9. The historical reasons for this inconsistency between thought, word and deed are as varied as they are complex. In very general terms we could say that "de-symbolising" music, by canonising it as "autonomous" or "classical", and disqualifying it, together with other nonverbal sound, as a viable medium of knowledge seem to be cultural processes concurrent with the rise of bourgeois rationality. Here "good" music became "Art", other music "trivial". If nonverbal sound in general was not aestheticised as "beautiful" or "ugly", it seems to have been ignored in proportion to its actual increase in strength and permanence. This split in the mentality of our culture seems to have been accompanied by other developments in the bourgeois rationale.
§10. With the notable exception of Christian religion -"The Good"-, modes of knowledge that were not based on a one-to-one relationship of readily verifiable causality or denotation - "The True"- were either deported to the homelands of "Art" -"The Beautiful"- or disqualified as either (a) quackery (e.g. natural medicine and weather forecasting), (b) superstition (e.g. myths, heathen festivities), (c) ugly (all art not included under "beaux arts") or (d) as a combination of any of these three.
§11. This split between "good", "true" and "beautiful" causes particular problems if we return to the soundscape and music culture of our own times. Although the majority of that vast quantity of music in circulation has never visited the cultural reservations of "Art", its very omnipresence and frequently documented importance in our own society make it impossible to trivialise. Bourgeois trivialisation of something as non-trivial as popular music (cf. German Trivialmusik) is about as useless an intellectual strategy as turning a deaf ear to the soundscape or a blind eye to television. However, the demagoguery of this last sentence is also useless, unless it leads to an understanding of the real role played by nonverbal sound in our society and of the connections between music, the soundscape and the rest of human activity (including relations to social and natural environments).
§12. There is little point in being so elastically ambitious in this short article, so I will try instead to provide a few insights into the problem by drawing on the example of rock and roll (R&R). Later on I shall also try and give an idea of how music, the soundscape and ideology are all interconnected in our society. But first some basic assumptions (no definitions!) about "sounds" and "music".
§13. Direct imitations of or reference to sound outside the framework of musical discourse are extremely rare. When they do occur (as babbling brooks, thunder, motor bikes, police sirens, video games, etc.) they are highly stylised and sonograms of these musical icons bear little acoustic "objective" relationship to the "non-musical" sounds they are supposed to symbolise. Not only does the listener have to have heard the sounds being referred to in "real" life, but also to have learnt (usually unconsciously) the norms of sound stylisation leading to the musical onomatopoeia in order to make the culturally correct connection. Can you hear David's stone knocking down Goliath in a correct Baroque rendering of a programmatic harpsichord piece by Kuhnau any better than a Ba-Benzélé pygmy can hear the hell of B52 bombers over Vietnam as played on a Fender guitar by Jimi Hendrix?
§14. Most musical elements "refer" in fact to nothing outside themselves, except to their occurrence in similar guise in other pieces of music or to their own contextual position in the piece where they themselves occur. This has led many thinkers to the strange conclusion that music can communicate nothing (e.g. St. Augustine). However, it is clearly absurd to treat music as a self-contained (autonomous) area of human activity, not least because changes in musical style can in a historical sense be found in conjunction with -accompanying, preceding, succeeding- changes in society and its soundscape. Soviet composer and musicologist B Assaf'yev (1976) called these moments in music history "Intonation Crises".
§15. The question to be answered is therefore not whether but rather how and to what extent the changing soundscape can be linked to changes in musical style in place and time. The intonation of our own soundscape might provide us with some clues.
§16. Well-meaning parents have frequently worried about what they feel to be an inherent aggressiveness in rock music. Imagine then what it was like trying to explain the expressive qualities of heavy metal (extremely popular with jeans-and-denim-jacket youngsters from high rise suburbs of Swedish cities) to sixty psychotherapists on a weekend course about "Creativity in the Arts". Not until I met two of the participants on the street outside a nearby shopping centre did I manage to get my point across. The noise of the traffic was so great that they could no longer speak to each other in their sort of professionally pacificatory and confidential tone of voice.
§17. To make themselves understood, valid as individuals speaking to each other, they had to shout above the din of the traffic. In relation to this main source of ambient sound, the word above applied to the figures speaking at conversation distance to each other has three senses: (1) louder than the ambient noise, (2) higher in fundamental pitch and sharper in timbre. Moreover, (3) to make their conversation even more efficient (so that each of them would hear more clearly the other rather than the ambient sound), the speaker could have reduced the spatial and acoustic distance separating him from the listener and spoken quite intimately in the latter's ear.
§18. This is the first and most obvious set of connections between the urban soundscape and rock and roll. The ambient sound of our cities is, as Schafer points out, severely polluted. The characteristics of this sonic environment can be simplified as follows:
it's loud - to be heard, you have to be louder yourself
it's full of lo-fi middle or low pitched broad band and continuous noises - you have to raise your vocal pitch as well as increasing accentuation and sharpness of timbre
it drastically reduces your distance to/from the acoustic horizon.
§19. What does all this have to do with music?
§20. We have just described a situation where two humans in a particular socially constructed environment (i.e. the soundscape outside the shopping centre in the Göteborg suburb of Frölunda) must modify their behaviour if they want to go into a different mode of social construction (i.e. saying something to each other). The conflict to be resolved here is that the social construction expressed by the soundscape is not the one these two people want to communicate to each other. Thus, if the social symbols of the loud ambient noise are to become secondary to the social symbols involved in talking to each other, the loud ambient noise will have to take on a new symbolic role as accompaniment or background to what has now become the main social activity (talking to each other).
§22. Such figure-ground relationships constitute the main dialectic of our European-North American music culture and can be found in the dualism between melody and accompaniment. Without this dualism in music, today's European or North American runs up against considerable problems. Few of us really comprehend the interaction and symbolism of the various voices in renaissance polyphony or medieval motets. Even fewer of us comprehend Afro-Sudanic polyrhythm or the Tunisian nouba. This is because we tend to impose the melody-accompaniment listening mode on music conceived according to totally different principles of acoustic, cultural and social perspective. In listening for the music's "foreground" and "background" we will probably end up complaining either that there is "no backing" (Arabian music) or that "there is no tune" (does renaissance polyphony and African polyrhythm have "too many" and only "tunes", or is it all "background" in our ears?)
§23. In other words, the European/North-American music culture uses the dualism melody-accompaniment as a common basis for constructing musical meaning, whether the creator's name be Haydn or AC/DC. The melody-accompaniment dualism has parallels in other European modes of thought: with the figure/ground of visual arts, the hero/story of novel writing, the particular/general of natural sciences, etc. These foreground/background relationships seem to make clear distinctions between the individual and the rest of social and natural reality.
§24. Now the relationship between the modern urban soundscape and music becomes clearer. "In the music of our culture", you might say, "the soundscape becomes the accompaniment and the individual becomes melody". But this would mean that one could directly transpose soundscape into music and, as pointed out earlier, our music very rarely includes sounds from outside its own culturally determined framework as a specific sort of symbolic system. In other words, there we would be no need for music if the soundscape "was" or "became" music.
§25. Schafer draws parallels between industrialisation in Europe - with its louder, more "broad-band" soundscape - and the change in size and sound quality of the romantic piano and orchestra. Of course, the hubbub of the city is not transposed into the big sound of a Broadwood piano with its cast iron frame and heavier strings, nor is the steam engine or cotton mill translated into the brass and bass boost given to orchestras by Berlioz or Wagner. The new ingredients of the soundscape are not so much comprehended "objectively" as mere "new sounds" but rather as indications or signs of the new life and times, sounding out that we are in these times, and as symbols encoding what these times could mean to us.
§26. The most important mode of comprehending the soundscape in connection with music will of course be symbolic. But before they reach the stage of becoming musical symbols, sounds must pass through the technological filter of whether the people living in the culture we are talking about can physically reconstruct the sounds of their environment. This filter will vary: with sound sampling, synthesizers and good studio facilities, practically any sound is theoretically reproducible, but with a rock or swing band, with a symphony orchestra or string quartet, the choice is more restricted. These restrictions will vary in time and place and influence the establishment of varying conventions as to how the same sound "outside" music sounds "in" music. This is one reason why the "same" rain and thunder sounds do not sound the same in music by Vangelis (Soil Festivities) and Richard Strauss (Alpensymphonie).4
§27. But even with synthesizers and studios, no "new sound" can be unconditionally transplanted into a musical context. To make the transition from sound to music, the "sound" must pass through a cultural filter and be made compatible with the sets of sound events accepted as "music". This is another reason for differences between storms in the two "musics" represented by Vangelis and R Strauss.
§28. Far more important than the rare and highly stylised musical icons just mentioned are the symbolic relationships between the symbolic meaning of sound events "outside" the music and their occurrence as musical symbols. Having to shout at each other over ambient traffic noise in order to be heard is an excellent illustration of how the symbols of a soundscape can be intoned. But what symbolism is there in a soundscape? Isn't it just "there"?
§29. Mozart's soundscape was not only without steam engines. He also never heard internal combustion engines, aeroplanes, power drills, ventilators, air conditioning, humidifiers, refrigerators, transformers or mains hum. These are the sounds of our urban industrialised culture, those that distinguish it sonically from other cultures.
§30. Schafer points out that strength of socially produced sound is usually in direct proportion to the social power of those who "own" the sounds. Thus the louder the sound, the greater the acoustic (and probably aerial) space occupied by the owner of the sound and the greater the power of that person in that social context. The most obvious example is the newborn baby's ability to dominate household acoustic territory. The acoustic potential of this tiny human (it emits the loudest, shrillest and sharpest noises in the home soundscape) seems to be out of all proportion to other aspects of its physical size, simply because it needs more attention and care than anything or anyone else in its vicinity.
§31. Such "sonic property ownership" works equally well in the public sphere. Schafer describes how the church was allowed to make the loudest noises in preindustrial urban soundscapes- ringing bells- whereas those at the bottom of the social ladder- beggars, street musicians and pedlars- could be prosecuted for making far less noise. Similarly, some of the loudest regular sounds in our own society are produced by or on behalf of those who already own disproportionate amounts of territory in the non-acoustic sphere too and who already wield social and political power on a par with that which they exert in the field of sound. So jet planes (air force, businessmen), helicopters (military, law enforcement, businessmen) and police sirens (law enforcement) make with impunity far more noise than a gang of rowdy teenagers in the street, the latter being considered a far more serious sonic disturbance than the former. By the same token, rockers on noisy bikes, although obviously quieter than jet planes taking off or landing, are considered more of a nuisance, not so much for the actual row they make as because their din disrupts and threatens the dominant socio-acoustic order. In short: only in exceptional circumstances do members of our society exercise control over the loudest of our loud sounds: it is the big boys, not we, who may make the big noises.
§32. Add to this the lack of control most of us have over all the new permanent lo\-fi sounds around us. I cannot influence the noise which the metaphorical wheels of this society seem to regard necessary to keep itself going. I cannot change or stop the permanent sounds of traffic, mains hum, aeroplanes etc. without stopping the effects produced by the sources of these sounds. So the sounds just drone on as if I did not exist, as if I was not part of it whatsoever. I must shout to make myself heard or escape (if I have the money) to another soundscape.
§33. When I was younger, clocks used to tick and the school bell would tell me if I was to sit down and be quiet or if I could go out, run around and make a noise. I had no control over these regular recurrences of sounds in my environment, no control over the control they had over me. If I worked at the printer's or in a modern processing industry using numerical code machines, the metronomic sounds would be both be even more overpowering and permanent.
§34. However, the feeling of implacable, almost inhuman, robot rhythm in our society (its extreme musical expression may be the indiscriminate use of rhythm machines or metronome settings) cannot be attributed to extramusical sound events in the environment, for quartz and digital clocks and watches do not tick and only a minority of the population work with machines making metronomically regular noises. No, the connections between metronomic musical pulse and society can be more readily found in industrialised mass society's apparently insatiable interest in certain types of coordination and planning and in its neglect of others.
§35. For most individuals living in such a society, this one-sided type of coordination and planning implies a whole series of acts whose common denominator means being in the "right" place at the "right" time. This could mean starting work when I would rather be in bed, having to brake for a red light when I've just reached fourth gear, keeping my lessons to 45 minutes when it would have been better to stop after 40 or 50, having to catch the last bus, stand in a queue, etc., etc. In all these cases I am subjected to a rhythm which at best I accept as necessary but over which I have little or no control.
§36. Confronted by this clock slavery and soundscape, I can choose to run away or stay and fight. Temporary escape into the realms of classical music or the Hindu raga may give me enough acoustic space and meditative energy to rebound into the world of nervous pupils, adverts, Miami Vice, neon lights and rock videos. But I might well also need a more direct musical treatment of the situation as I feel it. In fact, rock music could be an anthropological necessity in our society. If so, why?
§37. The caves at Lascaux in the Dordogne are a famous anthropological site, renown for a prehistoric drawing of a bison. It is assumed that hunters have painted their presumptive or actual prey with arrows or spears stuck into it. They seem to have visually either enacted in advance what they hope will be a successful kill or celebrated the event in retrospect. Through a symbolic act the hunters seem to have created the feeling of what it is like to meet this great animal that must be killed if they and their dependants are to have enough food and clothing for survival. It is like an emotional re-enactment of or preparation for a particularly dramatic and demanding but nevertheless absolutely essential part of life in that hunting community.
§38. Rock music can be seen as working in a similar way. Young urban dwellers will probably only come directly into contact with "nature" as a leisure resource, their "food and clothing" being acquired by money (that curiously inadequate system the social environment has devised to quantify power and the value of an individual). Young people today do not need to overcome the forces of "nature" to survive. Instead of killing bison and running through the forest, they must become clock slaves, allow themselves to be digitally quantified and atomised (worth so much an hour, so much for a bank loan, etc.) and must brave the dangers of a social and sonic jungle whose forces they do not control.
§39.It would be strange if this dangerous environment required no adjustment and no strategies for survival on the part of the humans populating it. It would be strange if these humans did not develop specific strategies allowing for individual and collective appropriation of the seemingly uncontrollable forces of the environment. Just think if we could stick proverbial pins into a sonic image of that environment (just like the cave-dweller had done), thereby emotionally re-enacting and preparing an essential part of our daily struggle for mental survival. Temporary symbolic control over the sounds of power, like the cave-dweller's version of the animal's appearance, is not just a matter of anthropological magic, nor is it a mere substitute for lack of real control: it is also part of a strategy for survival and emotional preparation for a real, even if temporary, state of power.
§40. It should now be clear why rock accompaniment (the "environment") is loud, metrically and periodically regular and full of constant broad-band sounds in the bass and middle register. If you are subjected to the noises and rhythms symbolising real power in your environment, they might become less overpowering if appropriated into your own terms. Rock accompaniments resulting from such a process "are not" the soundscape because, as we have suggested, the latter includes very little by way of sonic counterpart to the regular rhythms of the music and because the characteristics of the soundscape which do enter into the music have passed through the cultural filter, become stylised and resocialised. In this way, Iron Maiden's music may sound more like power drills or motor bikes and less like digital watches or bar code cash registers than the music of Laurie Anderson but, to my knowledge, direct references to the sounds just mentioned are quite rare in the music of both artists.
§41. Similar observations could well be made about rock and roll's famous wall of sound. As noted above, with the acoustic horizon brought closer to our ears in the urban soundscape, there are few sounds which seem to reach us from afar. This is not because the city street contains no reverb (length and amplitude of reverberation being one of the main determinants of perceived acoustic space). On the contrary, if you were to stand alone in the same street, to empty it of sounds and to shout, the acoustic space would be very large. Now fill the soundscape with traffic again. Since the noise is once more loud and, more importantly, constant, by the time the sound of a car has had a chance of being perceived as reverberation (a continuous series of decreasingly loud signals from the same original source), it has been instantaneously drowned by more of the same (louder) original continuous noise (from the same or similar source). This process impedes perception of large acoustic space.
§42. By drowning discrete reverb in this way, the overall impression of acoustic space is that it is crowded and close. Shouting to a friend on the other side of the street becomes impossible because there is an impenetrable wall of sound between the two of you. This wall now becomes your acoustic horizon, much closer than its visual counterpart and far closer than the acoustic horizon in the same space devoid of traffic.
§43. This aspect of our urban soundscape is intoned in rock and roll accompaniment, not only by creating the sort of loud broad-band sounds mentioned earlier, but also by adding considerable amounts of reverb to a recording or performance. The effect is similar to the that of "actual" reverb on the busy street. This effect of crowding and homogenisation is further enhanced in rock and roll by compressing accompanying instruments, individually and/or en masse. In this intonation process, the relative quiet of decays is brought up to the higher dB level of the same tone's envelope, this "filling in the holes" of the sound wall. Moreover, since decays are intrinsic determinants of the unique character of individual sounds, using compressors (along with noise gates and limiters) helps is a good way of getting that characteristic urban and rock and roll sound - loud and close-up but full of different elements which can be hard to distinguish.
§44. Having drawn on the socially constructed soundscape for musical appropriation of sets of sonic elements- often symbolising power, speed or modernity (these musical sounds are now resocialised in music in our form and after our image)-, the process of rock intonation continues.
§45. In rock and roll, the bass drum and bass guitar are responsible for stating clock time, the bass drum generally playing every or every other beat, the bass guitar emphasising every fourth one (explicit pulse). However, this general rule is frequently broken. Pulse beats can be missed out and strong beats in the metre anticipated by either half a beat, one beat or even by two beats, this causing agogic effects which subvert the implacable exactitude of natural science, computers and clock time. Over this already partially rehumanised version of humanly produced regularity, other instruments (e.g. cymbals, hi-hats, rhythm guitars, keyboards) frequently perform riffs including accentuations at microcosmic loggerheads (out of phase by a quaver usually) with the implicit or explicit beat (pulse). These riffs create a weave of rhythm making patterns of coincidence/non-coincidence with each other and with the bass drum and bass guitar. The rhythms and sounds of our times are in this way brought to a higher degree of stylisation through this musical resocialisation process.
§46. On top or rather in front of all this rock backing comes the melodic line, delivered by a vocalist, lead guitarist, saxophonist or other soloist. His/her melodic statements (phrases) are embroidered with further divergencies from clock or metronome time now resocialised by the backing instruments. At the same time, since the musical "environment" (accompaniment) is heavily loaded with loud bass and middle-range sounds, the soloist must raise the volume, pitch and sharpness/roughness of timbre of his/her voice or instrument to be heard. Instrumental soloists become soundmarks or supporting sounds which cut or bang their way through the ambient sound of the accompaniment like chain saws or motor bikes or which approach our ears from above it like a jet plane. Lead vocalists, the main foreground figures in a "rockscape" must also make themselves clearly felt.
§47. Even though microphones, which bring the singer nearer our ears, have been in use since before the advent of rock and roll, the male rock singer will nevertheless raise his voice to an average pitch at least one octave above what he uses for normal speech while the loudness and grain of his voice will also bear greater resemblance to shouting, screaming or (at least) calling than to talking. Whether the vocal expression be one of despair, celebration or anger, the dominant character of vocal delivery in rock is one of effort and urgency.
§48. The heroes of rock and roll have tended to be lead vocalists and solo guitarists. It is they who ride and tame the wild animals of rhythm and sound in their natural habitat - the jungle of clock slavery and constant noise. The heroes of rock are those who dare to "sing out", to make themselves heard and known, using the large loud gestures of sound and vision. When fans at a rock concert stretch their arms into a huge "V", it is their victory too. At least in that moment they know what it is like to be winners in the battle against all those sounds and rhythms that otherwise seem to control them.
§48. What I have written here "proves" nothing. I have only tried to put one or two pieces together that I do not feel are as separate as our schizophrenic tradition of knowledge would leave us to believe. In 1981, the US-American musicologist Charles Hamm (1981:14) wrote:
"if one had been truly attentive to trends in the mass dissemination of music"... "one could easily have predicted the outcome of last fall's presidential election and anticipated other recent events in the USA signalling a massive swing to the right".
§49. Just as the soundscape - to which our collective social intellect apparently remains oblivious while it continues to affect our hearing and psyche - tells us much about the relations of power in our society, so it seems that music can no longer be meaningfully marshalled into the traditional conceptual categories of "art" or "entertainment". For as long as we continue to put nonverbal sounds (including music) into isolated ghettos of human practice and do not incorporate them wholly as legitimate, albeit specific, modes of knowledge and experience on a par with the natural and social sciences, we shall remain ignorant and schizophrenic, still failing to grasp how an idiot like Reagan could ever become president.
§50. If the young urban dweller's intimate knowledge of our society through rock and roll were to be allowed out of the conceptual ghetto to which we have banished it and to be explicitly connected with other types of knowledge and experience, would we not be better equipped to deal with the political realities of our time? This of course would presuppose that those of us privileged enough to wield the knowledge power of other symbolic systems (like the intellectual jargon used now and again in this article) are prepared to slaughter one or two of our holy cows and get to know ourselves and our fellow humans a bit better. This includes understanding the social, collective and political nature of symbolised feelings and atmospheres in the soundscape and music.
Ala, N; Fabbri, Franco; Fiori, Umberto; Ghezzi, Emilio (1985): Patterns of Music Consumption in Milan and Reggio Emilia from, April to May 1983.Popular Music Perspectives 2 (ed D Horn): 464-500. Göteborg, Exeter, Ottawa and Milano.
Assafiev, Boris (1976): Die musikalische Form als Prozess. Berlin
Chapple, Steve & Garofalo, Reebee (1977): Rock'n'Roll is Here to Pay. Chicago
Fonogrammen i kulturpolitiken (1979). Stockholm.
Hamm, Charles (1982): Some Thoughts on the Measurement of Popularity in Music. Popular Music Perspectives 1 (ed D Horn and P Tagg): 3-15. Göteborg and Exeter.
Janson, R & Strøm, E (1978): Hjernefunksjoner og Musikk - samtale med Hans Borsch-Grevink. Musikterapinytt 2/1978. Oslo.
Maróthy János (1974): Music and the Bourgeois, Music and the Proletarian. Budapest.
Michel, Paul (1975): Psychologische Grundlagen in der Musikerziehung. Handbuch der Musikerziehung II. Leipzig.
Schafer, R Murray (1967): Ear Cleaning. Vienna.
(1977): The Tuning of the World. Bancroft (Ontario).
Sundin, Bertil (1977): Barnets musikaliska värld. Lund.
Tagg, Philip (ed.) (1980): Film Music, Mood Music and Popular Music Research. Göteborg: Stencilled Papers from the Musicology Department, no. 8002.
Tagg, Philip (1981): On the Specificity of Musical Communication. Göteborg: Stencilled Papers from the Musicology Department, no. 8115.
Explanations by Schafer (1977:271-276)
acoustic space. The profile of a sound over the landscape. The acoustic space of any sound is that area over which it may be heard before it drops below the ambient sound level
ear cleaning. A systematic programme for training the ears to listen more discriminatingly to sounds, particularly those of the environment. A set of such exercises is given in... Ear Cleaning (Schafer 1967).
hifi. high fidelity, i.e. a favourable signal-to-noise ratio. The most general use of the term is in electroacoustics. Applied to soundscape studies a hi-fi environment is one in which sounds may be heard clearly without crowding or masking
lofi ...low fidelity, i.e. an unfavourable signal-to-noise ratio. Applied to soundscape studies a lo-fi environment is one in which signals are overcrowded, resulting in masking or lack of clarity
sound event. Defined by the human ear as the smallest self-contained particle of a soundscape. It differs from the sound object in that the latter is an abstract acoustical object for study, while the sound event is a symbolic, semantic or structural object for study, and is therefore a non-abstractable point of reference, related to a whole of greater magnitude than itself
soundmark...derived from `landmark' to refer to a community of sound which is unique or possesses qualities which make it specially regarded or noticed by the people in that community
sound object. Pierre Schaeffer, the inventor of this term (l'objet sonore), describes it as an acoustical "object for human perception and not a mathematical or electroacoustic object for synthesis". The sound object is then defined by the human ear as the smallest self-contained particle of a soundscape, and is analysable by the characteristics of its envelope. Though the sound object may be referential (i.e. a bell, a drum, etc.), it is to be considered primarily as a phenomenological sound formation, independently of its referential qualities of sound event
soundscape....the sonic environment. Technically, any portion of the sonic environment regarded as a field for study. The term may refer to actual environments, or to abstract constructions such as musical compositions and tape montages, particularly when considered as an environment
2. Michel (1975:85), Sundin (1977:55-65), Janson & Ström (1978). For further references, see Tagg (1981:2-3, 16-22) and interview with Tony Gurrin (National Film School, in Tagg (1980:47-49).
3. For Italy, see Ala, Fabbri et al (1985). For Sweden: Fonogrammen i Kulturpolitiken (1976) as well as December numbers of Veckans Affärer (Swedish business journal). Figures for the US music business supplied by Reebee Garofalo, Göteborg, May 1986. See also Chapple & Garofalo (1977).
4. Vangelis (1984): Soil Festivities. Polydor POLH 11. R Strauss (1915): Eine Alpensymphonie. Leipzig: Verlag F E C Leuckart.
5. These notions have been developed following a conversation in 1980 with Dick Bradley, at that time employed as musicologist by the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham (UK), i.e. before the centre was axed under the Thatcher regime.