36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 081: Electronic music day


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 81 — Electronic music day
22-October-1971 (Fri.)


Most of Friday–from now on—will be involved with my Electronic Music courses. It is, at this point, difficult to understand, but I believe it will become easier. Even at this point, I am learning. We have practical exercises to do, which are interesting. (Collecting normal sounds on tape to be used later on.)


Electronic music day. It looks like Fridays will be my electronic music day—with most of my classes taking place on this day. I like that I mention a bit about what I am learning, I hope that I continue this.

Electronic music label. In my posts, I will refer to these classes as electronic music rather than musique concrète. One reason is that we will use some electronic equipment and techniques (filters) in the class; the second reason is that I don’t like typing the accent in concrète; pronounced “kan-kreh-t”, not like the cement. Plus, my spell checker always removes the accent.

Collecting sounds. Since we are manipulating sounds with tape recorders, our first steps are to collect interesting sounds. That means recording those sounds. Later on, we will learn to manipulate them.

This task of taking a sound and manipulating it will become a central focus of one of my activities this entire year.

2007 applications. Are there any practical applications in 2007 that have a history or relationship to electronic music or musique concrete? Yes. Here are a few.

Composition. Certainly, there is contemporary music composition. Composers may wish to include elements of these genres and techniques in their works.

Sound design. Sound design is a major element in the making of today’s motion pictures—so dominant that, many times, it drowns out the music. Creating and balancing sound effects with dialog and music is the job of sound design. Many techniques in sound design are related to those in electronic music and musique concrète.

Foley work. Foleys are sound effects, most often used in motion pictures. Foley work is most closely related to musique concrète and involves the recording and manipulation of natural sounds, background ambience, and sound effects that go into a film. Often, this involves the live recording of sound—such as footsteps, background sounds, and door creaks—synchronized with the motion picture. Without the foley artist’s contribution, a film would not feel natural. Background sound is a part of reality, if it’s missing, it will feel unnatural.

Recording engineer. A recording engineer is the heart of a recording studio. His job is to record music, voices, and foley effects and make a recording sound great. Today’s recording engineer has an incredible array of tools to record, make, shape, and mix music, sound, and vocals. Many recording techniques are the same as in musique concrète and electronic music techniques—mixing, applying filters, equalization, modulation, reverb, stereo, audio editing (splicing), sound manipulation, and others.

Mastering engineer. A mastering engineer is a specialized engineer that takes the final recording mix from the recording engineer and then “masters” it, using mastering equipment and software. A good mastering engineer produces recordings with that “pro” sound. Mastering is the missing element in many home recordings.

Podcasts, soundseeing, and soundscapes. Podcasts are an amazing phenomenon. Think of them as your own private audio or video show for the Internet. Some podcasts employ soundseeing tours—an audio tour—that can encompass sightseeing in a major European city, a talking tour in an art museum, a live restaurant review, or one of Chris Marquardt’s (tipsfromthetopfloor.com) photography soundseeing tours on digital photography topics. People also record “soundscapes” that capture audio recordings in a variety of settings—most often in nature settings. If you have a topic of interest, give podcasting a try.

Home recording and songwriting. So, you’re a songwriter or in a band? Today’s computers, software, hardware, and musical instruments are a goldmine of recording capability. You can create, record, mix, manipulate, master, and produce your band’s CD right at home. For that matter, composers are producing TV and motion picture scores in their home studios. It’s a great time to be musically creative.

Teaching. You can teach science, acoustics, and musical composition concepts to your students, using the science and musical principles behind electronic music and musique concrète.

After Vienna, I was an instrumental music teacher in middle school for six years. During my teaching tenure, I won a couple of educational grants to teach electronic music composition and filmmaking to my students. The results? Incredible! Young students are creative. Students used both musique concrète techniques and electronic music synthesizer to create wonderful electronic music soundscapes, films, and compositions. As part of my teaching, I incorporated science, acoustics and the teaching of musical composition concepts using these mediums.



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