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LanguagePrintCritical dictionary


Jorge Lima Barreto

We are surrounded by sounds, we live in a sonosphere. A generalised background noise envelops us and surreptitiously invades our ears, we live passively with this sonorous amalgam; the continuous and/or discontinuous flow of sounds which is the sonosphere. 

Keywords: oral communication; rhythm;

We may consider two kinds of sonosphere: a) the natural, which corresponds to the entire sonic and physical exterior, that which is  characteristic to nature.

b) the artificial, which is the result of sounds made by man in two ways: first: incidental biological sounds, such as the voice, or, accidental, resulting from our technology (e.g. the squeaking of  car wheels, the grinding of a mill, the wheezing of bellows, the rumbling of engines and atypical sounds of sirens, slot machines and the blades of  wind turbines etc.); second: intentional, coded sounds such as music or linguistic messages.

Unavoidable noise powerfully dominates our sense of hearing.

Electrical vibrations (phonons) affect our mammalian body which serves as a soundbox - external sound, a sound ecosystem, is our real world, which we take in; unconsciously, with no reflection or meditation or even rationalisation - just as we breathe, we hear, we retain various rhythms, tempos, intensities, heights and polymorphic tones; however, by force of will, struggling for the survival of the species we try to dominate this fog of sound…vibrations in the air, waves, frequencies which we register - for this reason, when we hear the sound of the waves we know we are near the sea, a massage rather than a message.

We may now formulate a critique for the criticism of this artificial sonosphere, as an ethnology of the times in which we live.

Since the technological invention of  the microphone, the amplifier, the speaker and recording, in the world of fixed sounds, we may distinguish two kinds of artificial sonorous classifications:

Those we are conscious of, where the sounds are totemic and, subliminal, a kind of aerosol spray, in an undistinguished and sedative atmosphere, secretly emitted by sound transmitters.

The majority of the sounds that we hear, which are called or said to be music, comes from a sophisticated and totalitarian music industry. With the advent of electricity and the proliferation of the mass media of music, the conditions for a specific merchandising campaign for the music industry were created.

It was, initially, a strategy related to records, the sugary songs and voluptuous, mesmerising and hypnotic beats were heard all over the world as a commercial and atmospheric strategy.

The science of communicating at a distance, places the sonosphere in different sonorous sites and times, trans-mediatic, polysensorial and interactive.

The kinetic sonosphere has evolved since the aesthetic positioning of speakers, its displacement in space, determined by computer, thus creating a virtual reality of space and movement.

 “Easy listening”, as all forms of light music, have a predominance of melody, flatness; and only a trace of harmonic textures, with no deep feelings, suggesting a vulgar sensuality; a kind of music which surreptitiously appeals to an endemic polysensorial imagination as a means of emotional sterilisation.

However, this regime endowed music with sophisticated production systems, technological developments to the audio industry, these copies are  simulacra which in a rather basic way combine various sonorous textures originating from world music (folklore, traditional, classical or light); elements which were collected and reworked with a technocratic complacency, whose only objective is astronomical sales, thereby confusing pacifism with passivity - determined as a product of the leisure industry, an ecological edition.

 Muzak is a international firm which created techniques of sound production whatever the source music used. It is not really a form of musical composition, but rather a generation of sounds, not even an improvisation but a preparation of sounds. Thus, Muzak classifies the cords as smooth sounds, wooden instruments as uplifting and metallic as emotional.

It also covers certain musical aspects: the tempo, related to the beats of the metronome per minute: the rhythms, normally of central importance, such as in the waltz or rumba; the instrumental tone is obscure. Muzak is music played for millions of listeners, basically sounding the same: … used like air conditioning, as a sonospheric blanket. Muzak is used by the industry of designer music in banks, lifts, gardens, waiting rooms, stadiums, gymnasiums, museums, factories, greenhouses, airports, stations etc. and is a paradigm of conformity, and it is the paradox of the multiple relationship of technocracy, humanism and ecology, an ideology started by the music industry, the insidious triumph of kitsch - Muzak is to be heard but not listened to.

Improvisation could be the source of this music, it signifies a rebellion against Mannerism with its hyper-complexity and stratification of stereotypes, it is an attempt at abolishing the element of sound, sounds used economically…; short and discrete acoustic  and electro-acoustic sounds, rarely heard; rhythms in continuous variation, drones and noises meticulously controlled co-exist in an assumed temporal suspension; deceleration, contemplation, insinuation. After all, this is a conceptualisation of reductionism, current in the fashion for the divestment of the decorative arts. An abolitionist front, a regime of sonic reduction against the degrading pollution of the sense of hearing.  

From another perspective we may speak of a landscaping, improvising musician who considers that the role of musicians is not to reproduce certain aesthetic works for the pleasure of a restricted audience, but to intervene, just like any other architect working in the city or countryside, by creating artificial sound landscapes.

Murray Schafer’s scientific ecologist theory made a systematic inventory of sounds with the intention of protecting us from unnatural sounds which must be hidden by artificial and/or crafted sounds.
Ambient music has the cosmic objective of the creation of all encompassing worlds of sound, it vigorously defends communitarian systems of sound. The practice of this theory includes the broadcasting of auditory hallucinations in public or urban places. With its experimental character it makes use of all sites for a show, new places such as: the mountains, plains, the subaquatic world or the stratosphere, its monotonous imagination aspires to a generalised wellbeing.  

The artificial sonosphere is a metastyle, a polymorphism, an Olympic orgasm, a cacophony or mystical fulfilment, a collective throbbing; just as in horticulture, pollination and hybridisation.

The sonosphere is a cultural laboratory, an anonymous investment in experimentation, the practice of unexpected models as alternative perceptions and relations, as it is rhizomorphic the artificial sonosphere uses new creative production processes. It proposes a new objectivism - a multifarious mixture, quotation, miscibility, wondrous invention of objects suggested by the logic of absurd thought, meaningful sensuality. Its rhythm is abstract, only determined by obscure laws of mechanics or electronics or by the volatile throbbing of human action.

Viewed optimistically, the artificial sonosphere is a critical eco-acceptance of the latest predominant fashions on the behalf of a lucid audience and associated to the changing aesthetics of sound.


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