Whether you’re familiar with the term “found sound” or not, it refers to a concept you’ve almost definitely had some experience with during your music listening lifetime, possibly in one of these tracks:
Using so-called “found” sounds is essentially a form of sampling, wherein a producer or composer will use recordings of noises attributed to items or atmospheres that are typically considered “non-musical” in the creation of a musical work. This might include the urgent clacks and dings of an antique typewriter, the soothing babble of a mountain stream, the cheerful rattle of a tin of peppermints, or the squelch of a squashed tomato.
For the history buffs among you — for whom we like to provide an occasional origin story and reason for further exploration — the idea of using sounds in this way is often traced back to a compositional ethos called musique concrète, which came into popularity in the 1940s.
Of course, back then, sounds could only be collected and manipulated through the use of magnetic tape — a technical and often tedious undertaking. As with so many things, modern technology has opened up all sorts of possibilities when it comes to sampling; and thus incorporating unique, non-traditional sounds into music as part of the creative process.
Today’s musicians can find countless ways to experiment and transform any and every type of sampled noise, resulting in limitless creative possibilities. Additionally, handheld field recording devices and even smartphones have made the practice of collecting bits of sonic inspiration wherever one goes, easier than ever. But while the process of collecting sounds may be easier, utilizing them in music creatively and organically is still a challenging feat.
In the latest episode of our podcast, Themes and Variation, our three-headed panel discusses three songs that use found sounds in unique and inspiring ways. Listen below!
In addition to the thoughts and reflections provided by yours truly, this episode features the observations and insights of producer, composer, sound designer, and Soundfly Mentor, Sam Friedman. As always, Themes and Variation is hosted by the effervescent and inimitable, Carter Lee, who will, no doubt, take issue with that description.
If you like what you hear, we’d certainly appreciate it if you consider sharing the show with your loved ones and/or leaving a friendly review on the podcast aggregator of your choice.
Here’s some of the episode’s highlights.
Episode 14 Highlights
1. Carter is falling in love with Tennyson.
Carter: “A little more research and I found out Tennyson is from Edmonton, Alberta, where I’m from and it felt kismet, it felt like.
Mahea: Go Oilers.
Carter: Go Oilers indeed. But no I was like ‘oh my god’ something feels right about this, so I went on a deeper dive and found this track ‘Lay-by.’ And, I was just blown away. They are becoming an artist that I will continue to listen to I think forever. Mahea, to answer your question, this is really awesome, it’s Luke and Tess Pretty a brother and sister group from Edmonton, Alberta.”
2. Sam details his journey from guitar hero to electronic music lover.
Sam: “When I first started producing, Burial was kind of the gateway drug for me into electronic music. I grew up playing guitar and I was very, very, very obsessed with technicality. I was one of those musicians who, you know, I didn’t care how good it sounded, I cared how hard it was to play. I was very interested in the musicality of things, so to me, electronic music was like, it wasn’t real, I didn’t recognize it as music. I thought it was just a bunch of posers, it wasn’t good… As time went on and I got more and more into music, and more and more into experimental stuff, I got really into Radiohead, (and) Thom Yorke did a track with Burial…”
3. Fans got to see the moment Imogen Heap discovered the melody for “Lifeline.”
Mahea: “Fans could watch her actually go through samples, they could watch her put things together. She did a little video blog everyday of this process, and there is a mini making of this song documentary on her YouTube channel and one of the coolest moments they highlight, fans actually got to see the moment when she came up with the initial melody, because she happened to be live-streaming and she just started kinda singing.”
Join Our Collaborative Playlist
Now, we know you’re going to have some excellent songs in your ear that feature found sounds. So, just like we do every time we launch a new episode, we’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist to both share every song mentioned in this episode and explore many others that fit the topic.
And we need your help. Add your favorite songs that feature found sounds to the community playlist here to carry on the conversation, and if you’re a Soundfly subscriber, post them to our community Slack channel as well!
We’ll see you in two weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!
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