Sound Matters, issue 07 â€” p 7. David Lynch / p 26. Designing ancient instruments / p 12. Awful Records and how Atlanta rules hip-hop / p 18. Music and nature
Sound Matters Issue 07
What detail of contemporary life does the practice of design not touch? From the high level thinking that goes into our everexpanding global cities down to the smallest detail about our newest, ubiquitous smartphones – designers sit in the middle deciding how it all should look, feel and sound.
We constantly revisit the idea of design: its history, its failures and successes, its processes and its eﬀects. And one idea which keeps returning to us is that listening is inextricably linked to the practice of good design. Not just listening to our own products, but specifically listening to people, listening to the world and culture they are immersed in, and listening to the sound and the creativity that is embedded in all of us. In many ways the underlying theme of this issue is how sound resonates through all these pervasive structures, networks and processes, and can unite them. But, of course, it isn’t simply sound in itself. The important activity is an engaged and responsive listening. Read on and find stories from our ongoing podcast series, listening in to the profound, almost instinctual relationship humans have had with music from the earliest years. Read how our contemporary music is overwhelmingly concerned with listening in to its natural environment, how graphic design has had an impact on how we notate music, how music is at the core of one of humankind’s most visionary technological projects, and more. Welcome to the seventh issue of BANG & OLUFSEN’s Sound Matters journal – where we look at, and listen to, the artists, designers, musicians and creatives whose work defines our contemporary culture. John Mollanger Head of B&O PLAY
Head of B&O PLAY — John Mollanger / Editor-in-chief — Nathaniel Budzinski, NRB@bang-olufsen.dk / Design and art direction — Studio C, studioc.dk / Contributors —Jennifer Lucy Allan, June Canedo, Louisa Gagliardi, Luke Turner, Rob Young. Special thanks to — Marianne Christensen, René Christoffer, Nicoline Sofie Gjøls-Andersen, Jens Jermiin and everyone at Bang & Olufsen.
Sound Matters Issue 07
07/ Atlanta's Awfullest: how the capital of hip-hop stays at the top / p 12
Blast from the past: ancient instruments come alive / p 26
Drawing Sound: turning graphic design into music / p 8
Find out more about us at bang-olufsen.com Listen to our Sound Matters podcast at beoplay. com/podcast Watch our Design Matters videos at beoplay.com/designmatters Subscribe at beoplay.com/ culture Sound Matters series 03: our award-winning podcast readies for a third season / p 6
Iconic collaboration: director David Lynch takes on our A9 speaker / p 7
Contents Music by Nature: how our cosmos makes music / p 18
Sound Matters Issue 07
For the musical deconstructivists Song Exploder Ever wondered about the story behind your favourite tracks? Ever wanted to explode the songs you love? (Well, explode in a metaphorical sense.) Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece tell the story of how they were made. Our favourite episode looks at the theme-song for the Netflix show Bojack Horseman, as taken apart by Patrick Carney, who is one half of The Black Keys, joined by his uncle, Ralph Carney, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked artists like Tom Waits, St Vincent, The B-52s, Galaxie 500, and others.
Portable audio from the days of yore: an experimental Bang & Olufsen mobile loudspeaker van in the early 1930s.
Ear This / It's a golden era for podcasting, but there's lots of noise. Check our choice picks of shows we've been listening to recently
For the thoughtful design enthusiasts 99% Invisible 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. For example, one recent episode explores how (or if) humans can discover our greatest creative potential. In the early 1950s, a research group at the University of California, Berkeley began developing new and diﬀerent ways to analyse personalities. The scientists attempted what many thought was impossible: to study creativity in a methodical and scientific way, working to determine what specific personality traits make certain people creative.
For the music lovers The Light In The Attic Podcast This podcast series is lovingly put together by Seattle-based Light In The Attic, probably the best and most active reissue labels in the US-of-A today. Other episodes include overviews of the legendary mustachioed cowboy crooner Lee Hazlewood, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea talking classy LA jazz and much more. Our top episode features Dewey Lindon “Spooner” Oldham. You can be excused for not knowing his name, but you probably know his music: Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman”, Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally” or Aretha Franklin “I Never Loved a Man” are just a few among many hit tracks he played keyboards on as a session musician over the past four decades. For the truth-seekers Longform In the age of post-truth and fake news, good journalism that establishes the facts is ever-more urgent. The Longform podcast goes in depth with some of the leading voices in non-fiction writing, with a focus on storytelling, journalism and the nitty-gritty work that goes on behind the scenes at many of the US’s most influential publications. Even if you don’t know who Ta-Nehisi Coates, A.J. Daulerio or Malcolm Gladwell are, Longform’s warm and chatty format will get you into some of the biggest and most important stories of our time. For the lovers of the unknown Here Be Monsters “Am I a benevolent god to these ants?” Meet Jacob Lemanski, owner of AntLife, a company that makes ant farms. After an experiment with using diﬀerent soil types in one farm, an ant became trapped in a small underground cavern just inches from the surface. This is just one of many episodes in the nearly-impossible to categorise Here Be Monsters: the podcast about the unknown. It’s really hard to pin down what the episodes are about exactly (though that’s the whole idea) but themes tend toward the dark and scary – focusing on real people relating bizarre and uncommon experiences direct to microphone. The sound design is superb, so definitely try to listen with headphones on, but maybe not while alone at home in the dark. For the scriptwriters The Nerdist: The Writers Panel Created by seasoned writer and producer Ben Blacker, The Writers Panel hosts informal panel discussions with leading writer talents in TV, accomplished storytellers doing what they do best, all with a lot of laughs thrown in. In our favourite episode, Ben saddles up his steed and heads out on the range to meet his fellow cowpokes… well the people who write about ranges, cowpokes and westerns anyways: Westworld creators Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy sit down and chat with Graham Yost, Jonathan Tucker, John Wirth, and Anson Mount and discuss the rich tradition of westerns on TV, from iconic characters to revenge, duels, outlaws, lawmen, and the communities they protect.
Sound Matters Issue 07
Stars In Their Eyes / What runs on 40 KB memory, is 13 billion miles from Earth, and contains one of the most ambitious albums ever? By Nathaniel Budzinski So, as our conception of reality has become unimaginably expansive both in terms of virtual space as well as outer space, the notion and practice of design has become ever more central to how we all experience life. Are you a PC person or a Mac person? iPhone or Android? Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or all of them, and more? So many of our choices regarding the tech we use are not simply down to habit, but rely on how the look and touch of things make us feel. What The Golden Record so eloquently represents is visionary design that opens up new ways to think of our world and act in it. It harmonises a technical vision with a cultural vision, reducing elements to their most simple and eﬀcient, while clearing the way for the creative forces which drive us.
“The more time we spend in virtual mediated experiences, the greater the desire is for beautiful, tangible artefacts, the physicality of the original that’s now 13 billion miles from Earth.” So the tech writer and futurologist David Pescovitz told me in an interview earlier this year. The distant “original” that David’s talking about is the Voyager deep space probe. Launched by NASA back in 1977 to explore our solar system and beyond, at the time Voyager represented the pinnacle of technological advancement, as well as some of our most ambitious hopes and dreams. Specifically, though, David is interested in the “beautiful, tangible” object of desire that Voyager carries: the so-called Golden Record, containing The Sounds Of Earth compilation. Included on both Voyager space probes, The Golden Record is a collection of sounds and music which tried to sum up life on Earth for any alien civilisations the probes might meet on their journeys. From the sounds of a mother soothing her newborn, bus engines revving and people laughing, to the music of J.S. Bach, Chuck Berry and Azerbaĳani bagpipes, the Golden record tried to compress the world in sound onto an LP. Compiled by a panel of experts and academics, it was the ultimate global mix for an intergalactic listenership – but it was a release with only two copies. That is until now. Pescovitz and colleagues are set to produce a wider amount of terrestrial copies, available for us Earth-bound inhabitants to purchase. The hopes of this small record reach far. In the 40 years since Voyager 1 departed our pale blue dot, there’s been a lot of changes at home. One of the most profound has been the so-called information revolution. In its infancy in the late 70s, the internet and connected mobile tech have since taken over the world. It’s an oft-repeated example, but then-current cutting edge technology like Voyager ran on nothing near the computing power of today’s standard phone: Voyager runs on 40 KB of memory, current phones generally have 3–4 GB, not counting storage. Using terms like “information superhighway”, “infobahn”, or “world wide web” will date you harshly. The revolution happened and we are connected through technology in ways that now seem second-nature to us. So intimately intertwined is tech with our day-to-day lives that we’ve stopped needing catchy names for that change (thankfully). As David pointed out, we spend an increasing amount of our time participating in virtual mediated experiences. From everyday acts like messaging or consuming content, to emergent mass platforms like AR and VR, we really, really like communicating with each other through our tech.
A gold aluminium cover designed to protect the Sounds of Earth gold-plated records from micrometeorite bombardment during its epic, interstellar journey. Courtesy NASA.
Pescovitz andcolleagues recently ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to reissue The Golden Record. Check it at ozmarecords.com/voyager You can listen to some of the original sounds on NASA’s Golden Record at soundcloud. com/nasa/
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Sound Matters podcast series 03 / Bang & Olufsen's award-winning podcast series heads into its third season. By Chas Mockbridge
Our surrounding soundscape is as important as the landscape we see around us. And sound gets inside of us in a way that no other sense does. You cannot switch oﬀ hearing, we feel it through our bodies, it makes us move diﬀerently, it makes us happy or upset, relaxed or alert. Our soundscape is part of who we are individually, as well as collectively. “That’s what we are trying to get to understand in series three – how we, as the collective human race, deal with the noise we make, and that surrounds us,” explains series producer and writer Tim Hinman as he takes some time out to speak with me in his studio. “How are we changed by our soundscape? How do we change it ourselves, for better or for worse? And it’s important that we look at cities, especially in terms of sound design and noise pollution for the future, because more and more of us are living in cities. How can we get through the noise?” Our hearing adapted over thousands of years with a focus on nature and our surrounding environment. For millennia it was our early warning system against sneaky predators, as well as how we celebrated through music. Fast forward to present day: over half of us live in cities – noisy urban environments filled with the sounds of cars, electronic machinery and other buzzing technology. But we’re still living with a nervous system that was finely tuned to the relative peace of nature for millennia. Instead of the fear of being eaten by a bear, our ears are on edge to the noise of the city. Hinman continues: “We thought it would be interesting to meet a number of artists, designers, curators and other creative types and speak with them not only about their literal surrounding soundscape, but also the cultural one too – the music and sound art that intrigues them and makes them think about their surroundings and sense of place.” So, where will Hinman be taking us on his intrepid journey? “We’ll start out in my hometown, Copenhagen, and then we’ll visit London, Moscow, Lagos, Delhi, New York, and more. It all comes back down to keeping our ears open, and staying aware of how we listen just as much as what we are listening to. Tune in at the start of 2018.
Sound Matters podcast won two medals at the 2017 British Podcast Awards. Kick back and listen to it all at beoplay. com/soundmatters
Sound Matters Issue 07
David Lynch / The iconic director meets an iconic speaker
See more about the collaboration at beoplay.com/lynch
Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive to name just a few of the classic films and TV series which form the vision of legendary director, David Lynch. It is such a specific approach that the film maker’s last name has acquired that variation reserved for only the most unique: “Lynchian”. Never one to rest on his laurels, Lynch is also something of a musician, as well as visual artist – the latter a practice he’s been involved in for decades. So, when the opportunity for a collaboration based on his visual art practice arose, we jumped at the chance. Earlier this year we worked with Lynch to create a limited edition run of our iconic A9 speaker. It features work from the director's Paris Suite of lithographs created in 2007 at the French capital's renowned Idem studio, where artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse have worked, among many other important creators in art history. “Anybody who goes to visit [Idem], they walk in, they smell the printer ink and they go into a dream. It’s like heaven to me,” Lynch told Fast Company magazine. “It’s got an atmosphere and a mood that is so special and you can feel the past in there and also see a glorious future.” Lynch describes the collaboration’s result: “The thing is that a lot of art wouldn’t maybe lend itself to going on a speaker. But those really look cool on the speaker… There are some things that I’ve done that could be reproduced and put onto other things, and so it opens up a whole world of possibilities.” The 30 signed and numbered speakers are available exclusively through the MoMA Design Store. There was also an exhibit at Lynch’s second annual Festival of Disruption, which took place at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles in October 2017.
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Cornelius Cardew, Treatise, 1967, pg 183
Drawing Sound / When musical composition met graphic design
Sound Matters Issue 07
A brief introduction to a long tradition in the art of illustrative instructions for musicians. Elliott Sharp, Excerpts from Foliage, 2012
By Jennifer Lucy Allan Cornelius Cardew, Treatise, 1967, pg 133.
Sound Matters Issue 07
Graphic scores are as varied as graphic designs. Written by composers to express a musical vision, this idiosyncratic way of notating music emerged in the 1950s as a radical form of composition. From crisp pen lines adorned with Euclidean shapes, to magazine cutt ings, scraps of lace and co-opted circuit diagrams, graphic scores open up a world of possibility for drawing the links between sound and design. As music adopted more radical sounds and ideas, the way of notating that music had to change too. And in the post-war period, graphic scores began to be adopted as a way of transcribing music by a new generation of composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki, and John Cage. The origins of the form are sometimes traced to the minimal graphic boxes of American composer Morton Feldman’s 1950 piece Projection 1, or the work of avant-garde composer Henry Cowell. Graphic scores are like maps for performers, often containing a multitude of possibilities for navigating music that contains non-standard sounds like electronic samples, unfamiliar instructions, eﬀects, and improvisations that the stiﬀness of stave and manuscript cannot. Sylvia Smith, curator of the Scribing Sounds exhibit on musical notation, wrote that “to standardize notation is to standardize patterns of thought and the parameters of creativity”. A keystone of the graphic score is British radical composer and activist Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise. Identified as one of the most iconoclastic scores of the 1960s, it is 193 pages long, and has been referred to as the Mount Everest of graphic scores. Cardew was an assistant to Stockhausen, and a trained draughtsman, and this back-
Morgan Evans-Weiler, Strategies I, 2016. From Tonebook, Inpatient Press.
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ground shows. Treatise’s designs are still striking in their freshness today. True to his zeitgeist, Cardew never actually gave instructions on how to interpret Treatise, leaving it open to free interpretation. Many of these scores exist as strong graphic works in themselves, requiring the composer to adopt a visual language in the process. Improvising jazz player Anthony Braxton uses collage techniques in his scores: cut-outs of train carriages bump up against elephants, linked with lines and symbols. In Cathy Berberian’s scores for voice like Stripsody from 1966, cartoonish lettering and figures intrude upon the stave. Some, like Stockhausen’s scores, retain a clear visual link to traditional music notation, whereas pieces like John Cage’s represent the character of the composer: mischievous word games flying in the face of the formal expectations of the concert hall. Theresa Sauer's Notations21, and the more recent Tonebook by Lea Bertucci and Michael Anzoni, collect scores from a cross section of composers. The latter showcases the breadth of style in contemporary times, from percussionist Eli Keszler’s circuit board-like score for One And One Less (Wiring Diagram), to found images like the high resolution landscape photography in sound artist Merche Blasco’s Excerpt From Bardenas. Many of these pieces, from the 1950s to the present day, are designs as much as they are scores. They apply design principles and artistic expression to the transposition of dynamic sound into a static visual form. Graphic scores remain a radical and inspiring challenge to the the boundaries between art and design, opening up new ways of navigating the mixed sensory world of music and vision.
Photography and interviews — June Canedo / Stylist — Tess Herbert / Makeup artist — Ashley Gray / Hair — Chaise DeBow
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Sound Matters Issue 07 Atlanta, Georgia has been punching above its weight in terms of music, especially hip-hop, for a long time. From OutKast through Ludacris, Gucci Mane, Young Thug and many more, this Southern US state capital – current population just under half a million – has generated a creative community unlike anywhere else. So unique that it’s been the undeniable north star for Southern hip-hop, for close on two decades, and arguably all US rap in recent years. But like any vibrant cultural community, the Atlanta scene isn’t simply powered by chart hit artists – the city is also steeped in a rich musical history that takes in R&B (Usher, Toni Braxton anyone?), gospel and soul, and earlier in the twentieth century, blues and country music. You can hear the history of American music in Atlanta. Enter Awful Records – a loose collective of artists with Atlanta as their hub, but active internationally, and currently a core creative influence in the city. Its central figure is Father – a determinedly DIY artist who made the transition from designer and photographer to music over the past five years. All the artists know each other from Atlanta: Abra, Faye Webster, Ethereal, KeithCharles Spacebar, Meltycanon, Slug Christ and Richposlim to name some of the 16 member collective. Hip-hop forms a thread through the Awful crew, but true to the founding spirit of hip-hop, Awful is far from being constrained by any genre – compare the dark and slowly unfolding R&B of Abra to the alt-Americana country-tinged music of Faye Webster, and you get an idea of the cultural breadth Awful Records takes influence from. Like its home city. We recently travelled to Atlanta and met Father and a number of the Awful Records collective – Abra, Danger Incorporated (Louie Duﬀelbags and Boothlord), Danger Ethereal, and Faye Webster.
Sound Matters Issue 07 Abra Abra in Atlanta, Georgia. The artist recently released her new single, â€œNovacaneâ€? as part of the 2017 Adult Swim Singles Campaign, and will make her acting debut in forthcoming film Assassination Nation, directed by Sam Levinson and due for release sometime in 2018.
Sound Matters Issue 07 Danger Incorporated (Louie Duffelbags and Boothlord) Boothlord: “Awful is definitely a genuine collective of artists who are homies, who love to create. I think our own flow, how we like to present them, it's so easy to align them with Awful.” Louie: “This year we’ve been making a lot more music, and some traveling outside of the country. We’re doing a lot interviews and just growing. All the moves we’ve been making with Awful, it's getting crazy… I would say improv is crucial for making any type of music. The moment you start trying to control it is when you make something whack. I don't think I need to control anything. I try to just enjoy myself.”
Find out more about the entire Awful Records artist roster at awfulrecords.com See more of June Canedo’s photography at junecanedo.com. A longer version of this article and separate interviews will be available start of 2018 at beoplay.com/ awfulrecords
Sound Matters Issue 07 Faye Webster “This new album [eponymously titled, Faye Webster] still has my same song writing and aesthetic. It’s definitely more R&B though… My mom's entire family is in a bluegrass band together. I grew up around that and started playing music through them… I moved to Nashville and just moved straight back because it just wasn't diverse at all. There wasn't a rap or jazz scene. I think Atlanta has all of that combined and condensed. It’s the most eclectic music scene that I’ve been around… In other places I think the music business can be dirty because it can be really competitive, and Atlanta just feels supportive.”
Ethereal “There is a huge contrast between north and south Atlanta. The north side is suburban, nice homes, establishments, parks, what people refer to gentrified… I got to be part of the Minority to Majority Program which was Atlanta’s initiative to get kids who live in lower income areas up to places where things are generally “better”. That alone has had the biggest influence on the range of music that I listen to and what I am into. I love music in general and I feel like living in both of those worlds helped pull that out of me… my perspective is a little diﬀerent in that being born with a disability I have a wider range of awareness. It opened up my worldview. My disability definitely gave me a sense of hyper-awareness and that's really awesome.”
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Father “People love to collaborate in the south. People gather and it’s much more family orientated so you get a lot of diﬀerent people collaborating. Being in LA now, I mean it’s so isolating, even when people meet they are always alone or they will meet and have lunch, and then spend the rest of the day alone. Doing things in the south is so diﬀerent. We’re always in groups… I am so much more of an artist still – I try to do sixty percent art and forty percent business, and I keep people in check. You can’t just think “get the art out there man.” It’s just not how it works at all. Business is powerful and that overtakes everything, every aspect, so you have to fit that into your art.”
Illustrations â€” Louisa Gagliardi
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MUSIC BY NATURE
Sound Matters Issue 07
The author of Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music and a forthcoming book about the experimental rock band, Can, sets his ears on how music and the natural world interact. By Rob Young
Sound Matters Issue 07 Our tenure on this planet is a historical blip. Before the current Anthropocene, there have been many ages of Earth, each lasting millions of years, and there will be human-free eras in the future. In the light of this knowledge, how can art represent concepts that hold true for all the geological ages of Earth, not just our own? The idea of an art form governed by natural laws, not only human emotions, begins to make sense. Music is precisely such an art form. Strip it back to its elements, beyond the popular tune, the great symphonic development, the tribal beat hammered on a log, and it’s an acoustical system with properties governed by the physics of the universe. When any music – from Bach to Stockhausen – aspires to the ‘cosmic’, it takes its structure and organising principles from nature’s arithmetic. It can move or even awe us in profound ways, but it is not the same type of experience as a work of romantic self-expression. Any consideration of the relationship between musical process and nature must include the idea of cyclical rhythm. After all, the Earth itself was the first clock. As soon as civilisation’s most ancient astronomers – or stargazers – realised that the heavens moved in regular patterns, and connected the movements of the sun and moon with the regulated shift of years, seasons, months, days, hours, minutes, the human calendar was locked in to the gigantic mechanism of the universe. ‘Circadian rhythm’ is the name for measures based on the cycles of planetary motions, the rhythmic patterns soundtracking nature’s inescapable beat. The harmonic theory that emerged from that ancient world spoke of the music of the spheres, but later Western music of the classical and romantic period downplayed the other important aspect: the rhythms of the cosmos. Flow, development, structure dictated by feeling, intuition or programmatic portrait took precedence over non-human dynamics. In the classical orchestra, percussion is either non-existent, or used as accent, texture or intensification, it’s rarely an end in itself and even less often occurs in the foreground of the sound field. (How many concertos for percussion exist?) It took jazz, rock, funk and all the variants of electronic music – as well as the phonographic rediscovery of many forms of global and traditional musics, from African drumming to Balinese gamelan – to reinstate the idea of music whose driving force was rhythm, repetition and the sensation of space that falls between beats. In the hands of diﬀerent composers, percussive noises are by definition isolated sounds, which are appropriate for evoking the stars, points of light and galactic clouds visible in the night sky. A key work here is Iannis Xenakis’s Pléïades (1979), in which the composer discovered the concept of repeated beats as rhythmic atoms, and subjected them to increasing degrees of variation. “Still greater variations of an even greater complexity”, wrote Xenakis, “lead to total arhythm, to a massy awareness of the event, to notions of clouds, nebulas, galaxies of the fragmented dust of beats organised by the rhythm.” In the comet-tail of this work comes French composer Gerard Grisey’s Le Noir de L’Etoile (1989–90). Enormous in scope, and composed using radio signals from rotating pulsars, it attempts to evoke the unimaginable distances of space and the gravitational suction of black holes using nothing but beaten objects. Its method is to make the concert space a kind of universe, or galaxy in itself, placing the players in orbit around the audience. Drums ring out and solid bodies scrape against the blackness of silence, and we are forced to contemplate the existence of infinite rhythmic time cycles too large or complex for human perception to apprehend. Musicians have for centuries tried to render the natural world, or the natural sciences, into a musical form. Vivaldi wrote a Goldfinch Concerto, Beethoven had a Pastoral Symphony, and the cuckoo, lark and nightingale are never far away from the classical canon. Olivier Messiaen, one of modernism’s most individual voices and towering presences, worked with traditional notational means yet connected earth’s deepest canyons with the most distant stars, the earthbound and the divine. Birdsong was an eternal music handed down from unimaginable antiquity, a manifestation
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Sound Matters Issue 07 of the original divine creation. The intensely Catholic Messiaen believed the marvels of nature to be his creator’s gifts to humanity – audible and visible proofs of a higher power – and celebrated them in a musical language that remains unmatched. His birdsong-inspired passages – which appear in his orchestral pieces as well as the extraordinary piano opus, Catalogue d’Oiseaux (1958), does not sound precisely like a bird, as it is filtered through the familiar timbres of western musical instruments and also aims to convey the entire location and habitat. “Although I think constantly about the relationship of music to nature, for me music does not exist to describe natural scenery,” wrote Toru Takemitsu, the Japanese modern composer whose delicate music frequently references natural surroundings, gardens and seasons. As well as Takemitsu, contemporaries such as David Dunn, Douglas Quin, John Luther Adams and Einojuhani Rautavaara have all applied diﬀerent strategies to translating natural landscapes or the patterns of the animal and plant kingdoms into a music language. The twentieth century with its pioneering recording technologies have made that project much more immediate. The microphone and the recorder extended the human ear into the domain of nature as never before. In 1970, one of the surprise best selling LPs was an underwater recording, Songs of the Humpback Whale, a subaquatic recording made by the American biologist Roger Payne. He believed whales had evolved a musical syntax as intricate as the most advanced human music. This album, which went on to sell more than 100,000
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copies, was a surprise hit and although none of these majestic mammals scooped any Grammy best vocalist awards, it heralded the dawn of a new age in listening habits. In the same year appeared another album featuring natural soundscape, In a Wild Sanctuary by ecologist and composer Bernie Krause with Paul Beaver, a specialist on the Moog synthesizer. This featured field recordings made by Krause in a Redwood forest north of San Francisco, a burbling stream, ravens’ wingbeats, and the ocean breeze wafting through treetops, subsquently incorporated into a heady mix of jazz, synthesized rock and orchestral texture. Both of these records, though sounding very diﬀerent, conveyed the sense of natural beauty surviving in spite of tumultuous changes wrought on the planet by humanity. The idea of hearing the sounds of nature as a form of music is very much alive nearly fifty years later. Chris Watson, a former founder of Sheﬃeld industrial group Cabaret Voltaire, is now best known as the regular sound recordist for David Attenborough’s award winning nature documentaries for the BBC. Yet the stunningly engineered and richly immersive soundscapes he captures with his binaural microphones are also available as separate entities, often on CD or in the context of art installations. His expertise in remote mic placement now means that certain animals or birds – which usually flee at the slightest human approach – can be heard up close for the first time. The Norwegian artist Jana Winderen – who trained in marine biology – also exhibits her work as art. She specialises in sucking up underwater sounds, of fish, shrimps and melting polar ice caps, all of which both reveal the hitherto unheard ‘songs’ of strange creatures, but also the destruction of the planet’s ecosystems, and therefore carries a strong environmental message with more urgency than Roger Payne’s crooning whales. The Canadian sound environmentalist R. Murray Schafer has classified natural sound in three categories: geophony, biophony and anthropophony. Geophony is non-biological signals that occur naturally, like wind, water or earth movements. Biophony is the collective signature produced by all organisms in a given habitat. Anthropophony consists of human-made sounds, either willed or as an accidental by-product of our presence here. As Bernie Krause explains in his study of biophonies, The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places (Little Brown/ Hachette, 2012), biophony contains clear echoes of harmony, rhythm and timbre. Listening to the collective noise emitted by a rainforest or coral reef can exhibit similarly precise ‘arrangements’ and structures of a kind that a musicologist might detect in a composition. In a sense, all music aspiring to the conditon of nature needs to take this into account in future. Instead of imitating nature, it has to evolve and behave according to natural processes, and at the same time it carries a responsibility with it, to preserve and nurture Earth’s natural music to help it survive the Anthropocene.
Rob Young’s Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music is available now. His book on the experimental rock band, Can will be out in 2018. Both are published by Faber & Faber.
DESIGN MATTER exploring the elem FUNCTION COM SOUND MATERI & FORM
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All designers – whether they are producing everyday, practical tools or bespoke, high-end products – work with the same basic elements and needs. What do they need to communicate? What materials are they going to use? How is their design going to look, feel, and function? For a new six-part film series, Design matters: The Elements, frieze magazine – Europe’s leading contemporary art and culture magazine, in collaboration with Bang & Olufsen – visits leading practitioners in the fields of architecture, products, sound, fashion, and graphics, to discover how they think about the fundamental pillars of design. Participants include David Adjaye, Barber & Osgerby, Gail Bichler and Martino Gamper. frieze.com/design-matters 24
ERS Six films ements of design OMMUNICATION RIAL CONTACT Sound Matters Issue 07
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Blast From The Past / 40,000-yearold flutes made from vulture bones, iron horns and Roman lyres. Meet a group of ancient musical
Sound Matters Issue 07
instrument enthusiasts. With this crowd, itâ€™s literally from the cave to the rave. By Luke Turner
Sound Matters Issue 07 The Sunday lunchtime peace and quiet of the Glasgow commuter town of Lenzie is shattered by loud, metallic parps, birds scattering from mossy roofs. In the garden adjoining his home and workshop, silversmith John Creed is blowing into his replica of the Iron Age Loughnashade horn, an s-shaped tapered bronze tube capped with a decorative disk. It's Creed's third ancient horn since he was recruited by archaeologist Fraser Hunter in the early 1990s to work on a reconstruction of a 2000-year-old instrument known as the carnyx. The fearsome prototype, a 1.6-metre-tall pipe topped with a stylised bronze boar's head, lurks in Creed's oﬃce. Creed's work on the carnyx was one of the first of a number of projects trying to better understand ancient oral cultures in which sound would have had as much, if not more, significance than the visual. In 2013 these disparate groups, working on anything from 40,000-year-old flutes made from vulture wing bones to Roman lyres, were united in the European Musical Archeology Project (EMAP) a programme of research, releases, concerts and a touring exhibition. Dr Rupert Till of Huddersfield University, producer of EMAP recordings including an album of carnyx music called Dragon Voices, explains that the organisation's driving philosophy is to prove that “there were huge commonalities between cultures. It shows how European we are”. At EMAP's 2016 From The Cave To The Rave concert in Glasgow, the carnyx was joined by instruments from over the past 40,000 years, including deer antler percussion, bone flutes, conch shells, pipes copied from remains found in the ruins at Pompeii, a lyre and others. Some of these instruments haven't been played to an audience of this size in thousands of years, giving the event an unusual atmosphere somewhere between a university lecture and an ahistorical Eurovision Song Contest. The carnyx first appears in the historical record as a war horn, and it certainly sounds intimidating in Glasgow. Carried and played by trombonist John Kenny, it arrives onstage to gasps from the audience. Who knows what Roman conscripts, shivering in some forsaken outpost of the Empire, would have felt when it honked into view. John Creed designed and built this carnyx using sketches of the fragments dug up in Scotland in 1816, as well as from Roman and Celtic illustrations. Key was a depiction of three men playing it on the side of the Gundestrup cauldron – a central artefact at the British Museum's recent Celts exhibition. Following John Kenny's advice, Creed spent 400 hours hammering metal to the delicate thinness that makes for the most powerful resonance. “It’s important people realise that we're not just 3D printing these things,” he says, “there’s real skill involved.” The Celts were known for their metalworking abilities, but a close-up of the horns in Creed's workshop reveals just how dextrous they were. The beaten bronze has a delicate grain tangible to the touch, almost as if it were polished wood. The hand-worked detailing on the head is incredibly fine, while the wooden tongue and jaw are finely balanced on thin pieces of bronze and lead, allowing the player to shake the pipe and make a vicious rattle rattling sound. “The result was extraordinary,” Kenny enthuses, “it springs to life when you put the impulse into it”. He found that the carnyx had a five octave range and a versatility that suited it to contemporary situations, from studio recordings to a solo performance before an audience of 65,000 at a Celtic music festival held at the Stade De France in Paris. To write the Dragon Voices album Kenny tried to “evoke ancient mythological or physiological states” but insists that this is in no way an attempt to create an “authentic” reproduction of music long lost to memory, but “a work of contemporary imagination.” With no musical notation, modern musicians like Kenny are writing and performing interpretations of what these instruments could have sounded like. “Form is function and function is form,” he explains, “they were clearly used for diﬀerent purposes in diﬀerent places”. It's thought, for example, that the brightly-polished serpent-headed Tintignac carnyx had a sacred purpose.
Getting back to nature: the carnyx used to create “a work of contemporary imagination.”
Sound Matters Issue 07 Much of the Dragon Voices record, with track titles like “Dance Of Herne” and “After The Hunt”, sounds like other-worldly free-jazz. Kenny himself says that this is contemporary music that just happens to be played on very old designs, and insists that we shouldn't see his carnyx-playing predecessors as primitive. “An object like this would have been in the hands of a select group of people who could do all sorts of things I haven't thought of, because they're not in my culture.” Although the first Carnyx reconstruction was funded by the National Museums Of Scotland and a whisky distillery, Kenny takes umbrage at those who try to co-opt these ancient instruments as symbols of national pride. They were first played long before any European nations existed, and many were used by people from across tribal divides. The carnyx, for instance, was played by the Dacians as well as the Celts, who themselves were far from a homogenous people. The hope is that, even if they disturb the Sunday roasts of John Creed's neighbours, these surprisingly modern-sounding horns, flutes and pipes might be used to connect people, just as they did over thousands of years of European history. “You can imagine groups of people sitting down, slightly unsure of each other, and playing music together on instruments that were quite similar,” says Rupert Till, “it would have been a powerful way for them to feel safe.”
Horns of plenty: John Kenny with carnyx and Loughnashade trumpet
Listen to the New Tunes From Old Bones episode of our podcast to hear more beoplay. com/newtunes-oldbones
Prototype of Beosound 1 speaker, shot by Alastair Philip Wiper, author of The Art Of Impossible: The Bang & Olufsen Design Story: beoplay.com/artofimpossible
Design matters, craft matters, sound matters.