Sound collage is a method of creating works by careful selection and editing of existing material. Last week’s reading “Fair Use” by Negativeland, focused on the legal and financial implications of such efforts. This week’s online readings are primarily focused on the technical aspects of sound collage creations, although there is a brief mention of the legal aspects.
Artists began creating sound collages using available technology, which is now considered to be cumbersome. Using vinyl and tape technologies, artists would construct works by recording and then splicing together various components. In order to achieve results, it took long and tedious effort, sometimes taking months to create a track just a few minutes long. Eventually, ground-breaking sound collage artists (such as French composer Pierre Schaeffer), decided to retire from these types of creations.
I have always been fascinated with the efforts of these early pioneers, since they had to be both skilled and patient to succeed. Their works are lush with imagination. The meticulous nature of their efforts is evident and their results are phenomenal. Today we have synthesizers, drum-machines, computers and other devices to create music artificially. It is possible to create a track in one day using the latest technologies. Although we can create tracks’ with relative ease using today’s machines, the basis of creative endeavors comes from our imaginations.
Our imagination is the continual thread binding the history of electronic music.
Paul Panhuysen discusses the use of dynamic space and physical phenomena in music creation, and he provides us with a number of intriguing examples. Horst Rickel used “self-playing organ pipes” and in his own words, “I built an instrument which I called Organum Instabilum, which created lots of standing waves…causing wild sonic moments in the space, a phenomena I have been exploring since then.” The revolutionary work of John Cage and David Tutor contained a variety of elements, including amplified sounds from plants and machines. Christina Kubisch and other artists incorporated audience reactions into their works.
The type of experimental, electronic music we are talking about is not so familiar, nor is it generally accepted by conventional society. However, this fact seems to be exactly the point of much of this music, which was not necessarily created to reach the top of the charts. Electronic music has the power to affect and possibly “alter” the consciousness of the listener. In the words of Christina Kubisch, “I organize everything beforehand and the person who listens to my installation puts it together. It’s like a puzzle – they’re moving”. Terry Riley and Steve Reich experimented and created works, influenced by such mind-altering drugs as mescaline. Their resulting works do indeed have the ability to alter the consciousness of the listener. Christina Kubisch explains that the listener must react and assemble the work in their own minds. Once again, we are left to our own minds and imaginations. With this type of music, it is true in both creation and listening.