• Kolbrun Gunnarsdottir
4. term, Music, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis explores how noise found its way into music in the beginning of the 20th century. A time when Luigi Russolo, with his manifest, The Art of Noises, written in 1913, encouraged making music using only sounds from the environment; sounds from our everyday life instead of from traditional musical instruments. This he encouraged and did himself as a reflection of the society he lived in, which he described as being full of all sorts of varying noises from the city life. And exactly this reflection of ones environment has been an interest in this thesis; how does the development within music, to also include noises, have to do with the environment? The thesis has explored this subject by looking at four composers, who in each their own way have influenced the expansion of music to include all sorts of sounds as opposed to consisting exclusively of sounds from traditional musical instruments; Luigi Russolo, Edgar Varése, John Cage and Pierre Schaeffer. This has been done by going through their writings on the subject, and to understand the connection between environment and music Raymond Murray Schafer’s theory about soundscape changes throughout history has been used, as well as Eric Clarke and James J. Gibson’s ecological approach to perception. This thesis shows how inventions of the electric revolution, such as the telephone, speaker, phonograph and radio, have had an impact on how we perceive sounds in our daily life. These inventions meant that sounds were no longer bound to only occur once in one place, but could instead be transmitted to different places (telephone and radio) and recorded from anywhere, and then played back at any time and any place (phonograph). This afforded new possibilities to the composers who could now include sounds from anywhere in their environment as a part of their compositions. Then, with the invention of the tape recorder in 1930, it became not only possible to record and playback any sound, but also to edit the sounds by cutting them and gluing them together with other sounds, as well as speeding them up and slowing them down as one pleased. This made way for entirely new experiences of sound combinations and effects never heard before. A time when sampling as we know it today was born. Regarding the ecological approach, this thesis concludes that the environmental changes in different organisms’ lives impacts the way they express themselves; the composer is influenced by his or her surroundings which they reflect through their music. This is not something that happens from one day to another but rather is evolutionary. It took for example several generations to accept the new sounds emitted from the industrial revolutions machinery and factories, which slowly altered people's perception of the sounds and of the orchestra's new way of playing - by expanding the orchestras, using dissonance chords and so on – as a reflection of the audible changes in their environment. This new form of music was accepted by the audience over time. Then came a claim from the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo, that the orchestra was unable to reflect a society of noises from machinery and so on, because traditional instruments in his opinion were too limited in their frequency range and did not vary enough to mirror this society of all sorts of sounds. Gibson and Clarkes ecological theory sheds light on how these changes made composers perceive new possibilities within their environment, which the composers through perceptual learning developed further within each their area of interest, by experimenting with equipment that could allow for their ideas of any sound to be used in their music; a concept they preferred to call the organization of sounds.


This thesis is limited to dealing with how the acoustic environment (soundscapes) and new technology have played a role in how sounds from everyday life have found their place within the concept of music. To fully understand the subject it would also be beneficial to include topics such as politics, religion, war, social values, and the composer’s lifestyle to name a few. The inclusion of further topics is ideal when working with the ecological approach to perception of the environment, since environment is defined in this approach as being everything we perceive.


Exploring changes in tendencies through an ecological approach to perception can be useful in other studies regarding any historical change, even changes that are happening today such as the expansion of technology, and how that affects music, society, the way we communicate with one another, consumerism, and so on. What ever the subject, it can be related to the bigger picture; how the world is at that time in every aspect, and how it has to do with the changes happening.
SpecialisationPopular Music and Sound Production
LanguageDanish
Publication date1 Nov 2017
Number of pages73

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