A rich audio experience is born of attention to subtle effects and sounds hardly heard as much as the loud ones. Much of my interest in audio recording centers around the unexpected and “musical” collisions of sounds in everyday life.
My recordings strive to enhance the encompassing nature of audio as direct input, such as dialogue or solo guitars, and indirect input, like ticking of a wall heater in a room. Just as we unconsciously take visual cues in a landscape to determine distance of objects by their atmospheric haziness or reflective properties to determine substance, so do we realize an audio environment by subtle cues of distance by how loud or “present” a sound is or how bright or muted to grasp its texture or feeling. The result of an wholistic sensibility in audio production is a richer environment for the listener to explore and enjoy.
Like many audio enthusiasts, John Cage has significantly influenced my ears and how I perceive all sounds as potential musical sources. Cage wondered about what music is and how sounds beyond the written composition or performed instrument still influence the audience (he also wondered how the audience influences the composition and performance). Cage once said,
“What is more musical: A truck passing by a factory, or a truck passing by a music school?”
By this he is playing with both the idea that environmental sounds can contribute to music and jabbing at our preconceived notions of what music “should” be. Similarly, the 20th century french composer, Erik Satie, pondered the effect of music that can mingle with the sounds of knives and forks during dinner. Like Cage, Satie is peeking under the hood of our pre-conceptions about sound and music by incorporating what we often choose not to hear (or dismiss as noise). Of course, the outside or environmental sounds have been there all along. Cage and Satie simply want us to acknowledge them.
In other words, a synthesis can result from the expected and the spontaneous, emerging as a greater whole. Sounds hardly heard in an environment like the creaking of pews in a church or the opening of doors on a busy street fulfill our knowledge and experience of the surrounding world as much as the spoken sermon in that church or the loud banter of conversation on the street.
I strive to hear music in the everyday sounds around me. These ideas influences my conception of sound as a total environment comprised of subtle and overt sounds from diverse sources and locations.