Electro-Acoustic Music Composers and Creative Transformations of Sonic Memories of the World
Communication Simon Fraser University Burnaby, Canada
This paper examines the sociological dimensions of the artistic legacy of a project in electro-acoustic communication that has been underway for almost forty years. The study draws on interviews with electroacoustic composers who created a collection of ethnographic field recordings known as the World Soundscape Project (WSP). The WSP grew out of communication researchers' concerns about noise pollution but rapidly evolved into a documentary project about disappearing sonic memories of the world and, subsequently, an artistic resource for the composers in their own creative work. The archives include a collection of audio field recordings of public spaces in urban locations, and the sounds of specific types of places outside of urban areas (such as sounds of a working mining town), photographic documentation of the sites where the field recordings were made, and textual descriptions of sounds of the past in literature. The paper will discuss the transformation of researchers' definitions of "noise", ways of characterizing "sonic environments" and critically analyze the challenges of using historic collections of ethnographic field recordings in sociological research about artistic production, technology and cultural change.