Strings in the earth and air

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2008 Number 66

Strings in the earth and air
Steven Connor pages -


Steven Connor reflects on music that is the antithesis of the punctual, rupturing event: namely ‘atmospheric’ music, or sound-saturated space, in an era that can entertain all sound as potentially music since it no longer believes there is any essence of music. Connor posits an antinomy between two ‘characteristically postmodern’ principles: the ideal of an unrestricted economy of music, facilitated by new technologies of sound (re)production and transmission that allow for a spatial diffusion of music - which he describes as its conversion from form into field; and the ideal of what the Canadian acoustic theorist and composer R. Murray Schafer called ‘acoustic ecology’, derived from an Adamic view of the composer as sonic gardener, charged with the responsibility of tending the world’s soundscape and preventing it from running to acoustic weed. Connor looks some of the ambient, atmospheric, immersive and soundscape musics that have arisen in the last four decades, including the work of Ligeti and Stockhausen. He proposes an ‘auditory ecology’ concerned not with preserving and clarifying sound-objects in a ‘balanced’ sonic economy, but with negotiating the distinctions between listening and hearing in which musical and non-musical sounds are phenomenologically constituted as such.

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To cite this article
Steven Connor (2008) Strings in the earth and air, New Formations, 2008(66), -

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