The photograph shown alongside is of the doors to the Vlaanderen Opera House in Ghent, Belgium. It was just across the road from the hotel that I was staying at, giving the hotel its name. I was walking past on my first afternoon in the city when I saw it, and took the photograph. I posted it on Facebook and provoked quite a discussion amongst a few people.
What’s written is actually just an abstract, the full quote reads: ‘Music is about people. It’s not about sounds. It’s about putting people into challenging situations. For me, challenges are opportunities’.
It is sound that really excites and enthrals me though. Sounds that are often to be found in the most unlikely and mundane of places; the wind whistling through the window of a speeding train, or the metal loops of a flag ringing symbol-like in the wind against the flagpole. For me personally, music is all about sound. If I’m listening to music, then I’m not particularly concerned who it is that actually created it.
I tend to follow labels that release music of a particular genre and sound. As a musician/composer I find that I’m working more and more with abstracted sound material, rather than with pitched material. It doesn’t really matter who or what produces the sounds that I record and use. If it’s a person they probably aren’t even aware that they are being recorded; I mean who on earth sits outside in the bitter cold waiting for a tram to rattle over a wooden bridge and ring its bell? The driver of the tram could have phoned in sick that morning, and their replacement would have been driving. It would have been them who rang the bell; almost certainly unaware that it was perfectly timed to sound straight after the last chime of the bells in the ancient church bell tower. They don’t even know that they’re being recorded.
I was sat in the medieval cathedral in Ghent on Friday afternoon, surreptitiously recording the beautiful ambient sounds present there, I was somewhat in awe of the most amazing and totally natural cathedral reverb. I probably shouldn’t have been recording the goings on, but my little Zoom H2n recorder is quite small and inconspicuous, perfect for such covert recording, and nobody there was taking any notice of me anyway. Someone somewhere knocked something over, you had this huge crashing sound reverberating around the around the magnificent building for several seconds, the sound mixing with the sounds of the tourists talking and walking etc. That was just chance, they didn’t do it deliberately and again didn’t know I was recording.
I sometimes become aware of an ‘awakening’ following a sonic event such as a bell chiming, a thunderstorm, or in this case the sound of something being knocked over. In reality I suspect that it’s actually just that I had been concentrating so hard on the main sonic event to the exclusion of whatever else was going on around it.
Going back to Zorn’s quote. Acknowledging that all sound can be music is probably a challenge to many, acceptance will open up the opportunity to discover the music that lies for the most part undiscovered all around us.