Pierre Schaeffer - “etude aux chemins de fer” (Study on Railways) (1948)
This original music concrete piece is a beautiful study of railways. The recursive piece draws rhythms from the everyday, and develops a tempo which draws the listener in to expand ideas of concrete music. Being one of the first ever music concrete compositions, this piece should be celebrated as the beginning of electronic music, industrial and techno. Schaeffer brings our attention to the internal rhythms of the railways, expanding on the generic sound of the train by abstracting sounds and presenting them in opposition to each other. Juxtaposed rhythms provide an engaging representation of trains in motion.
Throughout the piece,Schaeffer slows things downs to draw new meaning in sounds. This provides an opportunity to understand sound in more detail and to start to separate the sonic content with the ear alone. Industrial sounds tend to be compressed and closely performed in the real world. But in this piece sounds are extracted and pulled apart so we can hear them individually with clarity. Dynamics create depth and and sense of movement and space. Movement is also introduced through repetition, changes in amplitude and frequency representation. Schaeffer studied everyday sounds and through pieces like this helped us to discover a new vocabulary to describe sound.
Chris Watson - La Anunciante
We hear the violence of the train, the dark side of these powerful vehicles. Contrary to a common representation of locomotives, this track is not so much a celebration of mechanical ingenuity as it is an analysis of the sheer abrasion and power that these things create. We hear ‘Last call for the ghost train’ called out on a pa system repeatedly by a singular female voice, in spanish then english. It’s a warning, or an invitation to take part in something sinister.
This collection of compositions from the album ‘El Tren Fantasma’ (the Ghost Train) are comprised of recordings taken from a passenger train which ran through central Mexico, now non operational. The sounds are eerie and other-worldy, they sound like the past.
Knud Viktor - Image 1 (pt. 3) (1972)
Isolationism - Knud Viktor spent 50 years living alone in the wilderness, only to return to civilisation to be run down by a bus. The playfulness in the piece is liberating, there is a child-like quality to the way Viktor manipulates the sound. It’s without preconceived notions of what a composition of this kind should sound like. There is not outside influence, which means that this work is pure in a way that I am not used to hearing. Operating outside the ‘official’ culture of sound art or music, Knud Viktor made colourful interpretations of sound objects through tape manipulations and experimental recording techniques. The minute details present in the work are so descriptive of the sound of water, yet I have never heard water portrayed exactly like this before. The motivation behind Viktor’s sound works was to create a sound image, he was a painter, and had a visual interest in the materiality of sound. This work makes me think of colours and textures in a visual way. The rhythmic elements to the work are fascinating and quite music, intertwining fluid surfaces. Spatialisation allows the water to move around the stereo sound field, enveloping the listener with watery sound.