Monday, April 28, 2008

Soundscape

Analogous to landscape, soundscape refers to the acoustic environment in a particular place. As a landscape is seen, a soundscape is heard. The soundscape includes all the sounds, music or not. The rattling of a window by the wind, speech broadcast on the radio, the hum of a computer's hard drive, the whoosh of air moved by a fan, the sound of tapping on the keyboard--we are surrounded by sounds. An acoustic ecology embraces the entire soundscape, not just music. We may consider music as soundscape--this is not really new--or we may ask about music within the context of the soundscape. That is, we may think about music as one kind of creature utterance within a soundscape, the utterance of human creatures. Two ecological principles apply to natural (non-human) soundscapes: niche and interdependence. Examining sound spectrograms in places where no human sounds are present, Bernie Krause found patterns showing that the sounds made by various creatures occupy particular aural niches based on frequency, timbre, rhythm, and other structural features. In other words, every species has its particular bioacoustic niche. Further spectrogram examination revealed to Krause that in a healthy, wild habitat creatures vocalize in a symbiotic, or interdependent, relationship, sensitive also to non-creature sounds such as made by wind, water, rain, thunder, and other elements of the acoustic environment. The health and sustainability of a soundscape is revealed by the variety of aural niches and the degree of interdependence of the individual voices. Where is music in the soundscape?

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