Musical Aesthetics of the Natural World: Two Modern Compositional Approaches
- music composition,
- biologically inspired music,
- acoustic ecology
Throughout recorded human history, experiences and observations of the natural world have inspired the arts. Within the sonic arts, evocations of nature permeate a wide variety of acoustic and electronic composition strategies. These strategies artistically investigate diverse attributes of nature: tranquility, turbulence, abundance, scarcity, complexity, and purity, to name but a few. Within the 20th century, new technologies to understand these attributes, including media recording and scientific analysis, were developed. These technologies allow music composition strategies to go beyond mere evocation and to allow for the construction of musical works that engage explicit models of nature (what has been called ‘biologically inspired music’). This paper explores two such deployments of these ‘natural sound models’ within music and music generation systems created by the authors: an electroacoustic composition using data derived from multi-channel recordings of forest insects (Luna-Mega) and an electronic music generation system that extracts musical events from the different layers of natural soundscapes, in particular oyster reef soundscapes (Stine). Together these works engage a diverse array of extra-musical disciplines: environmental science, acoustic ecology, entomology, and computer science. The works are contextualized with a brief history of natural sound models from pre-antiquity to the present in addition to reflections on the uses of technology within these projects and the potential experiences of audiences listening to these works.