Written by Taku Sugimoto
"But we are conscious of more than clarity." --A.N. Whitehead
I have been considering possibilities, in several ways, of what might be called photographic recording. I still remember that, when I got a portable DAT recorder for the first time about 10 years ago, I was really excited to record environmental sounds on many occasions. There was absolutely no plan to use those recordings as an element for a composition. I only wanted to listen to them.
Many people who listened to the double CD album futatsu, a collaboration with me and Radu Malfatti, said or wrote to me that the rhiz recording on the CD included many environmental noises that prevented a listener from concentrating on the music. Unfortunately certain types of environmental noise seem to be a problem for them. Of course, I know there were few people in rhiz who really want to listen to our music. But most of them seemed to stand such kind of noise, whether they liked what we did or not, because they didn't care so much. Nonetheless, I think that the moment while we were playing was perhaps the quietest moment in the history of rhiz.
It was not a normal concert, but a sort of festival of chess and music. We had a chess match in front of us playing. People there could do what they wanted. They could leave, drink, talk, play chess and do whatever. In this kind of situation, as in ordinary life, we don't tend to pay special attention to the environmental sounds which are surrounding us. But time goes by in any case, whether we pay attention to those sounds or not. The fact that we are always with time itself is quite often forgotten, though we are conscious of the space with which we are concerned.
People could stand the situation like the rhiz concert. But when listening to the recording of it, many people could not stand it. In such a case, the recording is not considered as music which we are familiar with. It is considered a mere recording, like a photograph.
When we listen to a CD, we never doubt that we are listening to the music that is defined as sounds really played and composed by musicians. More simply to say, we are listening to musicians. It would break this conviction to consider what can be recorded. For example, if there are no sounds played by us in the rhiz recording, who produced the recording or the music? The decision not to play any sounds is determined by us; in this sense "no sound" is done or produced by us. But if there was no concert by us and someone recorded this situation, the recording could be an art work by the person who recorded it. What is the difference?
It is absurd to think that people come to the concert for no performance. But it could happen because there were always chess matches whether we played or not. It is predictable that this "no concert" situation does not produce the same environmental sounds as when we perform "no sound." To record this is merely field recording. And it is not absurd to enjoy listening to this kind of field recording.
What is represented in recording is not the substitution of what is believed to be real sounds. What is represented, by musicians, in the live situation is not the substitution of what is thought the entity of music. All that media can be is a reproduction through which we can capture something.
The question is "What is real?"
In recordings, we tend to have an effort to capture real sounds of instruments. But, even in the live situation, what we hear is not only the sounds from instruments. There are always a lot of inevitable elements or noise which is intimate with the musical sounds. There is never any independent element, indeed. No logic can be applicable here.
In the composition of musique concrete or electroacoustic music, the composers use the elements of recordings with intention. A composer of musique concrete has an aim for the piece. He places each element adequately towards what he wishes.
Let's go back to the rhiz recording. Whereas the sounds like cars passing by, that we can hear in the appel track, is okay, why is the crowd noise that we can hear in the rhiz track a problem to the CD listener? Some kinds of sounds are acceptable. Some are not. Again, why are the sounds of cars passing okay? Why are the sounds of people talking a problem? It is assumed that there is a certain type of environmental sound which doesn't matter to the recording of music or which even sometimes adds some fragrance to the music.
There can exist the opposite type as well. The next step is to have difficulties in listening to a CD (and music in a live situation). Though we are conscious of more than clarity when listening to music, we tend to focus on so-called musical things believed to be a substance of music. The other parts only can appear as mere noise in normal listening. We need the existence of musicians who play certain sounds, even if the sounds are recognized as mere noise, because there is a prejudice that the music is realized by only musicians and all other sounds are accidental elements. Yet, I think it is true that we must have the existence of musicians in listening to music!
None of us can survive without a cultural background which influences our life and tends to confine our daily action for the society. But we have to doubt that what we feel is always real. Through difficulties we are able to be conscious of more. In a particular situation, I think, we can get out of the limitation which we subconsciously deal with.
I don't want to make conclusions about what I have been thinking in this short essay. I have scattered several ideas conceived in many possibilities. There is no limitation in the world, which is so flexible that we can't limit ourselves. So, an extraordinary idea which one can conceive is possibly very important even if the idea is so profound or so absurd that we can't understand it at all.