Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sonifact: a cultural or ecological sound form produced by and contextually dependent upon tangible, or "host" artifacts. A recognizable, repeatable, reproducible sound, made by people, other life forms or the environment, one that endures through time, with negligible variability.

Leaping forward to electronic capture as the only way to preserve a "past sound" is putting the cart before the horse. When in doubt, go hiking. On an earlier hike in a dense fog, when I reached the top of the mountain the wind was roaring across the face of the overlook, and with the fog, I could see lines and waves of mist shooting past, almost like being in a jetliner flying through a cloud. The roar was deep and massive, but I could also hear the individual pitter patter of drops of water falling on the oak leaves on the ground clearly and individually. I was thinking of Krause's Niche Hypothesis and wondering if it doesn't apply to geophony as well as biophony, because it seemed like all the different sounds occupied their own frequency niche, and even though the wind through the trees was what one might call "loud," the little drops of water came to the forefront somehow. 
I'm introducing the term "sonifact" as a sonic artifact or ecofact. I found Schaeffer's "In Search of a Concrete Music" translated, so I've been looking through it. So far I see Schaeffer refer to the sound object as a recorded entity, not a sound on its own. (The other, R. Murray) Schafer's observation that electronic amplification and recording brought about a social "schizophonia" has evolved to its natural conclusion, where there's no longer a split really, socially the world of sound has moved towards electronica to the point that the reproduced sound is more legitimate than the original. True environmental sound (there really is a difference!), the type that only uses compression and rarefaction of air molecules as its medium, really does seem like a museum artifact now.