Instrumental Composition


As a way of raising awareness of a research project, and as a creative output, a soundscape composition can often attempt to engage the audience without interrupting the sense of the sonic environment which it is attempting to represent. As has been discussed already, this can be achieved by using just the sounds of the environment in an electroacoustic approach to composition but some composers prefer to combine electroacoustic methods with more traditional approaches to composition such as using existing musical instruments.

Although this approach doesn’t just use the sounds of the environment it is an essential tool to the acoustic ecologist as a composer, as this music might be more engaging and appealing to a listener who is more used to hearing music made on instruments rather than music made from the sounds of an environment. This is important because raising awareness of the environment is a primary concern of the acoustic ecologist. Let us not forget that the acoustic ecologist is also a composer, often with many years of study and development of skill within the larger sphere of music, and may consider that the beauty of an environment will be further enhanced by representing it with musical instruments.

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Photo: Sewanee Summer Music Festival (2014). Outdoor Violin. Retrieved from http://www.sewaneemusicfestival.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/outdoor-violin-web.jpg

Each composer has a different approach to their own method of composition and collection of instruments, as well as their interpretation of the environment. In the video below, of R. Murray Schafer’s Snowforms (1986) uses the many different Inuit words for snow as the musical material for a choir to sing. Snowforms provides an interesting perspective towards soundscape composition as it is still a piece based within acoustic ecology, only the environment is produced by the language of the Inuit who inhabit Canada, Greenland, and Alaska which excites the listener’s imagination and provides an interesting topic of discovery at the same time.

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Snowflakes are a wonderful creation of the natural world, formed when temperatures are low and there is moisture in the atmosphere. They are formed of ice crystals which have an infinite number of shapes and configurations.

As the Inuit live in a landscape which is mostly covered by snow, and snow is actually a very complex form of precipitation, it is no wonder that they have so many words to talk about it - it is a rare luxury in the UK if any snow falls, and we tend to use very crude terminology to grade it.
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Photo: Passion2Read. (2015). Snowflakes. Retrieved from https://passion2read.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/img_20111220_213042.jpg

Video: dehmussulini. (2009). SNOWFORMS - R. Murray Schafer. [YouTube]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HtTWkxgStKE

Some Instrumental soundscape composers are:

• R. Murray Schafer
• Hildegard Westerkamp
• Annea Lockwood

Information about these composers and their work (including links to places to purchase them) can be found in the Composers Section.