Introduction- (should maybe be part of chapter 3?)
I will be investigating how sound is used to manipulate an audience and the difference between sound and music. My interest in this topic came initially from a video project about the relationship between audio/visual aspects within film. It then sparked the question why did the music effect visuals in the way it did? What is it about that music that made the audience react in a particular way? Could the same be done with sound? Is sound music? These were all questions I wanted to explore.
I began this more in depth project by making a short film, designed to evoke particular emotions within an audience. On separate occasions I showed the video to 4 individuals providing them with no description or concept and asked those people how the video made them feel. I received feedback that revealed the video gave the viewer feelings of nervous anticipation, but when the clip of the flower appeared there was a sense of glimmering light. The use of reverberation and ambiguous sound paired with glitching techniques and cropped framing was my attempt of generating these feelings within the viewer. When the video cuts to the flower I wanted to inject a small sense of relief but not loose the ambiguity of the video; manipulating colour grading, light, speed and accompanying these visual techniques with augmented lower pitched sound with glittery higher pitched ornaments was my attempt at generating the specific emotion within the audience. The sound was taken from the surrounding sound I could hear whilst filming, I deconstructed these recordings and composed the sound in a way that could change the atmosphere of the accompanying visuals. I want to investigate this further and experiment with describing places through the medium of sound and moving image.
I will be looking into the early stages of electronic music such as musique concrete experiments from Pierre Schaeffer and the early avent garde music of artists like Kraftwerk, Neu and Karlheinz Stockhausen. I will investigate into their use of composed sound and compare this to commercial electronic music later developed in Kraftwerk’s career and artists like David Bowee and Brian Eno. I will also discuss how sound is used in film to manipulate an audience for example films such as ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ and ‘The Magic Piano’. These films both use sound as a communicative medium but differ in their use of narrative and atmospheric sound.
After investigating into the relationship between sound and the mind through experiments for primary research and library and web resources for secondary research; I will concentrate these findings into how sound is used to contribute to society in a positive way; for example the benefits of sensory rooms for people who suffer with sensory disabilities like autism; also looing into the work of social audio/visual artists John Wynne.
John Wynne, an audio/visual artist, whose practice encompasses a wide range of media, including installation (I am Not The Cancer 2013-15), sculpture, drawing, architecture (Bournemouth research residency 2015), radio recording and composed sound documentaries (Hearing Voices 2004-5). His project ‘Hearing Voices’ is a research based project primarily in Botswana; Wynne created a body of work based on his research of endangered ‘click language’ spoken by the Khoi and San people in the Kalahari Desert. He produced a photographic sound installation and a half-hour long composed documentary for the BBC’s Radio 3. The artist explores the themes of sound and language, the relationship between them and the effects of globalisation and growing world economy (Toop. D date still under-investigation). The composed documentary is a collection of sounds recorded on destination, a series of interviews from the speakers of various click languages in the Kalahari Desert and some of Wynne’s own music (BBC R3 2005). Wynne uses sound as a descriptive medium in his documentary but through the descriptive sound design information is communicated and questions are posed in the listeners mind. The documentary has a resounding series of droning sounds that shift in volume across the left and right speakers that it is played out of. These light shifting sounds stimulate mental images of sand and dessert; the fluctuation in volume and use of reverberation generates a sense of vast terrain. There are glitches of what sound like bell chimes but these are snippets of the language, there are only glimpses of whole words in the initial introduction of the documentary; this glitching technique sets an ambiguous tone, there is a sense of delicacy to the short bell sounds, much like the state of the language. The sound scape is ambient and has a sense of tranquility to it with the tinkling of the clicks and augmented vowel sounds; but there is an underlining discourse created by the spacious drones of the dessert and the fading echo of the clicks that reminds the listener of the fact that this is a language that is becoming extinct, forcing the listener to ask the question why? (Bell. 2004) When the interviews are introduced more information is presented about the life style of the Khoi and San people, there are brief sentences and translations describing specific daily activities like fetching water, this also gives the listener an experience of the language being used in a colloquial way, it is also the first time the listener hears whole sentences in the click language rather than glimmers of words as prior to the interviews. There is a short section of English spoken by one of the people interviewing the Khoi and San people- “I personally feel slightly intimidate by some one who can produce over 80 different click sounds with their mouth.” This is followed by the sound of crowd laughter that then comes to an abrupt stop with heavy reverberation that then crescendos into fragmented click sounds and the same dream like drones heard previously in the documentary. It can be interpreted from these sounds that this is almost separating the two languages from reality and dreams, suggesting that the click language is fading into just a memory or a dream. We are unable to relate to click language used in the documentary yet there is still an understanding of the central thesis that is the language has become endangered. The descriptive nature of the sound scape comes through tone, timbre and temporal aspects of sound and not through a dialogue based narrative. Wynne uses sound to give the people of the Kalahari Desert, who use a language with a limited audience a voice that can communicate with people of all languages.
As discussed in David Toop’s Ocean of Sound, sound is a descriptive medium, but it is also subjective. There is no possible way to know how another person is hearing a sound, there are studies that show particular characteristics of sound generate a similar interpretation within listeners; but we are all hearing and listening in our own ways.
Ways of hearing are notoriously subjective. We have mechanism for comparing sounds by scientific testing and anecdotal evidence, but no way of knowing exactly what another person is hearing at any given moment. (Toop 2001 p. )
The evolving era of electronic music demonstrates the same ideas of using sound as a descriptive medium as apposed to musical narration. The foundations of electronic music began with Musique Concrete, this movement expressed an idea of using the elements of sound to express human emotion or physical atmosphere. The use of dialogue or structured melody was eliminated and replaced with tone, timbre and tempo, creating a new era of expressive sound.
“A method of organization presupposed an acceptance of abstract- that is, non-literal or symbolic sound patterns with an emotional, and not just intellectual, response.” (REF)
This concept of a difference between instrumental, linguistic and environmental sounds was experimented with during the Dada Movement, which evolved as a reaction to World War 1. The Dadaists opposed nationalist views, objecting to authoritarianism or lead ideology, influencing a new era of experimentalism. Artists explored art as a subjective medium and experimented with the relationship to it as a maker and a viewer; there was now a new freedom that was not restricted to the boundaries of representation. This was different to that of expressionism. Dadaists were not necessarily focusing on expressing the inner self, but instead experimented with ideas and abandoned art as a masterpiece. They embraced multiple mediums to express a subject abstracting it in any way they found effective, a new form of art to the previous days of representation. (Partsch 2006)
This newfound abstraction was adopted in audio art; and language was investigated in terms of phonetics rather than its literary value. These experiments came in the form of sound poetry. This was an idea of investigating language through sounds, removing the definition of words and analyzing the onomatopoeic and semantic values of language. Each word can be broken up into individual sounds, each of these sounds have a timbre; for example the augmented sound of the phonetic combination ‘sh’ has a spongy, deep and moving texture evoking connections to water or flowing motion. By analyzing these different timbres within broken words, sound poems were constructed.
Drawing on the sound poem written by Merz artists Kurt Schwitters, ‘Ursonate’. This is a controversial artist to discuss in terms of Dadaism as Schwitters was rejected from club Dada in 1918. In the Dadaists opinion, Schwitters was thought to be too much of a conventional artist; his work often possessed aesthetic quality, it was not in response to a political stimulus and was complete to masterpiece status that was anti-Dada (Dachy. 2013). However, Schwitters used mediums in none traditional or representational ways, exploring materials and mediums to their fullest extent and creating work that had been abstracted from its original state, much like the Dadaists (Foster 2013). His sound poem ‘Ursonate’ was written between 1922-1932 exploring language in its most archaic form, sound. It has been said that the poem was intentionally written as meaningless, it focuses on the value of sound in language removing its definitive value and using the sound of language as a form of compositional music. This idea has been put into practice in the structural form of the poem as it is based around Classical Sonata form. The Poem, which has been interpreted as no literary meaning is subjective to the audience; with the elimination of linguistic definition the listeners are left with the pure sound of the poem, and this sound is left to create its own definition subject to the listener (Dietrich 2011). ‘Ursonata’ demonstrates taking an idea and going beyond its literary purpose or meaning; Schwitters took the idea of language and augmented it to discover a new sonic language, he then took the idea of music and created new music with sound, that originally came from individual words. Arguably, words are essentially sound without a definitive meaning produced by intellect, and those words can be stripped back further to semantic value which again creates new sound.
An idea of sound within sound was later explored in the movement Musique Concrete. In 1948 Pierre Schaeffer broadcasted his Etude Aux Chemins De Fer, this was a piece with five movements of sound experimentation. The first movement was composed entirely from recordings of sound produced by trains; Schaffer was not trying to create a sound scape of a train track, he synthesized the recorded sounds experimenting with composition to create a piece that was subjective to its audience and created its own meaning and motivation (Lange. A 2009). With the invention of the tape recorder artists were able to record sounds and transform them with electronic technology thus creating sound within sounds. This could suggest that a recorded sound that may evoke feelings of anxiety or suspense has frequencies within it that can be separated, and transformed with technology to create a new sound that could evoke a feeling of euphoria; this comes to the question of what is the difference between sounds (Stockhausen. K 1972). These artists such as Schaeffer and Pierre Henry experimented with sound as an expressive device abandoning narrative music and focusing solely on the sounds and their individual timbre’s, colour’s and pitches; these qualities of sound are what enables sound to be transformed within itself.
I will look into the evolving era of electronic music and the Avent Garde experimental stages of bands such as Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, and the influence they had on commercial musicians Brian Eno and David Bowie. I will also investigate sound within film, the difference between the use of sound and music in film; focusing on directors Godfrey Reggio, David Lynche and also touching on descriptive sound in silent film animation. (Examples like Martin Clapp’s ‘The Magic Piano’ and David Lynches early work ‘The Gradmother’ and ‘Alphabet’.)