Because of magnetic tape, the things that I am interested in doing with sound are possible. When magnetic tape came along, anything could easily be recorded. The material qualities of the recording then allow for a great deal of exploration and manipulation. It can be slowed down, speed up, chopped, looped and layered in order to create new sounds and compositions that couldn’t otherwise have been created. Pierre Schaeffer used these techniques as a musician and dubbed it Musique Concréte. Essentially this was music from found sounds as apposed to from “musical instruments.”
What about this term “musical instrument?” The two separate words themselves would stand to mean an object used in the creation of sound that is to be considered music. Based on the works of the Musique Concréte movement, this would lead to any object used to then be considered a musical instrument if the final output is in fact music. Unless the fact that the sounds are edited and manipulated negates this distinction. A traditional musical instrument is essentially recorded and touched up, if I am to over simplify the editing process. These sounds however are warped, bent, twisted and otherwise rendered potentially unrecognizable. So then by this way of thinking, the tape machine also then becomes the instrument. It is the “thing” that is manipulated in pursuit of the larger composition. It is the instrument used in the production of musical content. And this is what sound artists like Pierre Schaeffer pioneered, the studio as instrument.
But what about from the other side, the side of reception as apposed to transmission? Our ears are the most basic listening instrument just as our voice could be considered the most basic musical instrument. (Language / voice as instrument… is this something that needs to be discussed? I think it’s an accepted mode of thought and we can move forward…) If we technologize the situation in the way that something like a violin or drum-like instrument does for the creation of sound, than the next step might be something like an antique hearing horn or even electronic hearing aids and headphones if we were to take a giant leap forward to after the development of various recording technologies.
The early magnetic tape manipulation experiments of people like Pierre Schaeffer and groups like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop explored new ways of using technology to question what a musical instrument is and how the tools and technologies of the time can be used in order to develop sounds that wouldn’t exist otherwise. The sounds were then recorded and transmitted in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes. I’m interested in expanding upon this to use technology to not only play with what sounds are used but how spaces and environments are listened to. While Musique Concréte explored different ways of using recorded sound in the development of audio compositions, the explorations that comprise the Listening Instruments project develops different ways of using found sound to create new, contextually relevant listening experiences.