Sonic Orchestration

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© Catherine Meeson 2012-2014
Old blog been in hiding….just typed ….written during nerdville period at Uni
We need to move beyond the paradigm of the traditional composer whom in their day and age gave voice to a Sonic Domain via the Orchestra. Expanding our definition of composing to include not only conventional Instrumentation and timbres but that of the global sonic reality, both the human domain and non human worlds. The world is the nosiest it has ever been ( well maybe next to the mountain building volcanic past). A multitude of solo sonic seekers stand poised daily, recording sounds and offering them up for Creative Commons usage to be sonically orchestrated.
Not all of us learnt to read or write music.
Before notation was listening and experimentation. Before notation was master and disciple in some cultures.
Before masters were many voices, and soulful utterance, experimentation and human ingenuity giving rise to early instruments, voice, drums, flutes and the spaces in which the audible was heard which were just as much part of the sound, as the instruments themselves.
Culture and place diversify. Time and tide cross fertilize . The results are a rich sonic array of possibilities for the 21st century in which the sonic orchestrator, can represent concepts, themes, ideas, abstractions. We can also embody knowledge and codify universal laws to be transmitted regardless of cultural origin via sound.
A Sonic Orchestrator makes sense out of cacophony and creates order out of chaotic voicing’s. He / she allows their palette to expand purposefully and intentionally signalling a creative adaptation of the old guard; not to replace it, but to synthesize it and with it, to integrate and offer more. To build a bridge between the worlds. The ancient worlds, the European classical world, the modern rock and pop world, and the electronic worlds of sample and synthesis. The Sonic Orchestrator may also attend to the model and ethics of the ancients regarding the use of sound knowing its effects.
I believe we have sound designers working alongside composers but not necessarily one and the same,. Maybe they are sometimes in the motion pictures world. How fascinating it would be to be part of a team like that. Sounds designers work on special sonic effects and recording simulations of real world things or out of this world sounds producing those mind bending signature sounds that get etched in the collective memory as the “Pod racer of Annakin Skywalker for eg.

Eg of the Master Sonic orchestrator John Williams at work, one whom has influenced the deepest recesses of my being with his rich dramatic scores, that even were they not be be applied with moving image would stand alone  creating their own synaesthesia experience.

The Sonic Orchestrator is not limited to score. The tools of trade now are not only instruments, but include tape technology, digital synthesis and computing power, giving us second and third brains to fulfill our vision and stretch our sonic boundaries, way out there into the vastness of space. Some level of music theory is advantageous but not even necessary any more. Studies have demonstrated that our neurological wiring process and enculturation occurs  within the first few years, after which time we have absorbed the fundamental sonic, the tonalities if you like, of our cultures, and the rules of its cultural musical expressions. This encodement goes beyond training, it becomes part of our gene pool, literally getting transmitted to the next generation for potential nurturement and awakening.

So the Sonic Orchestrator is not bound only by ones place and culture of origin. He or she is at ones best when adaptable and flexible to allow the influences of other systems to be internalized and comprehended, allowing a greater creative fertilization potential to occur. The ancient mode can be transplanted using contemporary voices, and real world samples, or conceptual abstract synthesis and design to create  a representation, sonically,  audibly and psychologically, of an event space occurrence, or a moment indeed of time and space itself. Sound is an expression of time and space.

Representation is nothing new to the worlds orchestrators, they have always sought to portray story, event, myth, feeling, mood, time, idea, etc. There are no limits in true composition. I really do like the title of a Sonic Orchestrator, it is much more aligned with the times, than just musician, therefore I fit the title well with my playing, but then so do we all.

Some of my favourite Sonic orchestrators over time are John Williams and  Tangerine Dream , but today I leave you with a link to one of my favourite conceptual orchestrations, The Planets by Gustav Holst, a conceptual but traditional orchestration.

Gustav Holst- the Planets

Tangerine Dream- Alpha Centauri

Jean Michell Jarre- Oxygene 2 Live

Maurice Jarre, Jean Michelle’s father wrote the Soundtrack to the Epic Laurence of Arabia

Enigma Live- Gregorian


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