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Walter Branchi

By now everyone knows …

“Yo soi yo y mi circustancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo”
Josè Ortega y Gasset

By now everyone knows that our planet (animals, plants, water, earth, air) consists of interconnected parts and that any
change in one affects all the others. This means that anything we do, large or small, good or bad, will have an impact on the
entire world system. The time has come to ask ourselves if what we are doing, right now, respects the environment. It is a
matter of ethics and morality.
We too are part of nature and the time when we thought it could free us from our responsibilities is now past. We are
responsible for the world in which we live, and nature is no longer some ‘other’ that serves as inspiration for poetry, music or

We all live under the same roof.

A phenomenon such as global warming, for example, affects all of us and is already changing the way animals and plants live.
The current economic crisis also makes itself felt on all the inhabitants of the earth. Are we really aware of all this?

So what is the place of music in relationship to these global changes? I believe that the traditional way of thinking about,
creating and listening to music, with the environment seen as a passive hostile entity, will gradually decline. Other approaches
will be worked out, and they will be complex models where music plays an active part in the environment, not in the sense of | 17 maggio 2009 | 1

I am neither an essayist nor a musicologist. When I refer to or make comparisons with music. etc. Therefore. www. Integrated music. It does not simply use the environment but interacts with it in a constructive. in my writings. I have no intention of establishing any classification of composers.background music or Muzak. All I want to do is give you an idea of the nature of my which no living creature could exist. food. I am simply using the stylistic context to explain how my music is conceived. warmth. Music as an Organism The first thing that comes to mind when speaking of an organism is its definition as a living being. Externally. It is essential to understand the difference between exploitation and exchange. dynamic way. or in the past. on the other hand. the concept of organism is also pertinent in music in attempting to explain how the formative components are active on internal and external levels at one and the same time. as is often the case with electro-acoustic or ‘ecological’ music. for it refuses interference from outside. it interacts with its environment – the air it 17 maggio 2009 | 2 . types of music and historical periods. . Even so-called ‘environmental music’ does not always actively interact with the | info@walter-branchi. past or contemporary. and even less music in which recorded sounds of the environment are incorporated in the composition. it is so in a closed form. Although in the former the music is also part of the environment. Internal interactions provide an organism with its unique identity. don’t expect to find an analysis of what is going on in the world of music today. However. There is a substantial difference between music that uses the sounds of the environment and music that is integrated with the environment. Some seem to think that I believe my music to be the only possible type of music. must be conceived as ‘open’ to the sounds and noises of the surrounding world. simply a composer. but uses it as background for compositions that could just as well be performed in a concert hall.

I shall never tire of repeating that by learning to listen to the environment we can begin to create an awareness of our surroundings. surprises may be in store that show us how the things of nature can be harmonized and can engage us. If we hope to slow down this process. It is not meant simply to be listened to. Music for Listening. My music is an acknowledgement of all the beings that interact with us to form the environment. but it is actually a voluntary process that consists in choosing what we wish to underscore in a network of interrelated events. The only difference is that the flow of music has the power to connect things no matter how far apart they may seem. nor even from one year to the next. when our insensitivity and lack of respect for the environment is creating an increasingly dangerous gap between our environment and us. It polarizes them. as is the presence of the listener or the sound produced by a passing plane. We can discover relationships between the movement of sound and that of a blade of grass. is due to the unbridled and irresponsible exploitation and pollution on the part of man. It is part of the context. In listening. mind and 17 maggio 2009 | 3 .walter-branchi. the odors and whatever else might happen throughout its | info@walter-branchi. a certain type of music also requires a dynamic relationship with its environment. whose effects are not visible from one day to the next. The idea of organic or integrated music is of particular significance today. influencing the metabolism and behavior of every living species and of which we are an integral part. we must develop a complex vision of the world that allows us to understand what we are interacting with and what is interacting with us. Rather than to be Listened to The music I compose is meant to help others listen to the world and to themselves. It is music thought of as a totality that includes the sounds and noises of its surroundings as well as the light. www. and between this and the passage of the clouds or the splashing of a frog in the water. Global warming. The environment is the pulsating place in which constantly changing life unfolds. who bears the brunt of responsibility for global warming (the natural causes are insignificant).When imagined and created in this way. Listening seems the most natural thing in the world.

But to exist in the mind of the person who imagines it. It simply is. amplitude and duration. the sound must above all be a manifestation of time. that is sounds that are therefore already temporally oriented (simple or complex sequences. What it is. In assigning duration one cannot help but also assign a frequency and an amplitude. it might seem paradoxical that the music of which I am speaking is created on the computer. Traditional music is based on other concepts and is therefore inherently dominant. in the absence of which the sound would not exist. is collaboration.non-historical. and therefore has a beginning and an end. so free from predetermined associations . With regards to the environment. It does not re-present mental images elaborated from a subject and translated for others into another form as music. Any predetermined sound is always characterized by a triple and inseparable interrelationship between frequency. the most artificial of means and the furthest from nature.that a type of music can be created that is not dominant and that is capable of containing and being contained in the environment. But it is thanks to these abstract sounds . horizontally or in vertical superposition). www. the entire composition comes to be conceived of as a form in time. such as those of the traditional musical instruments or those generated electronically. painting or art in general have traditionally done in the past. It exists together with all the other things that happen simultaneously in a given time and | info@walter-branchi. Let me now try to explain the difference between these two concepts of music: With regards to time A composer uses predetermined 17 maggio 2009 | 4 . non-cultural. It is not even music in the generally accepted sense. In putting ‘thought-executed’ sounds in what is this music of mine like? My music does not represent anything.

time and amplitude can be thought of independently. with its sounds and noises that would disturb the narration. since the music is no longer subject to the limits that block the interrelationship between the constituent parameters of sound. “At this point the signal thus elaborated becomes available in a non-temporal form. music obviously remains a temporal phenomenon. In other words it exists in a potential form. and this inevitably makes it emerge as something apart from its environment. determined solely by its own essential 17 maggio 2009 | 5 . which it may even cancel out: the music narrates and everything else is relegated to a subordinate role. In the first case. which means that it ignores the real environment (nature).com | info@walter-branchi. an end to itself. the music is subject to a sequential development. the parameters of frequency. each of these two approaches to composing leads to a different kind of music. the computer lets us configure time in the form of a virtual wave. we are no longer dependent on the objective limitations imposed by the physical nature of the real oscillating systems. which means that the shape of the wave is elaborated in its memory as a series of samples and therefore each parameter can be manipulated independently. with the potentiality of realizing itself.With regards to eternity If we go beyond the physical nature of sound. “An Aesthetic Island” There is thus a substantial difference between these two concepts of what music it can become real. Music of this kind expresses itself above all else. but only through time. in which sound images are www. The entire musical composition can therefore be thought of as without a beginning and without an end. it can disregard sequential development in favor of one that is more spatial. These are two different ways of conceiving music. Consequently. Its strength lies in its interaction and give and take with all the surrounding space of which it becomes a part. Today. by constructing virtual wave forms. configuring time.” Since the various parameters are independent of each other. Yet passing from conceptual to physical. On the one hand we have a form of music thought of as self-sufficient. it is possible to conceive a sound that does not fall into the beginning-end logic. Nor should the fact be overlooked that. In the second type. therefore descriptive and often narrative.

com | info@walter-branchi. discover the importance of the environment in 17 maggio 2009 | 6 . Georg Simmel’s description of painting can equally well be applied to music: “the essence of the work of art is that of being a totality in itself. Robert Smithson and others are not representations on canvas.represented in a relationship of otherness vis-à-vis the listener. a traditional piece of music interacts passively with the environment. to serve as lightning rods and capture the beauty of bolts of lightning during thunderstorms. On the other hand.” Like a picture. This awareness is not theoretical but practical. there is a type of music that is connected with totality. An example is De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977). Yet all that is needed is the flight of a bird to make everything come alive and be interrelated. In places of listening where the interior is protected from the exterior. It co-exists and one of its functions is that of polarizing the undefined “reality” as it is being listened to. isolated in its frame. “a work of art is an imaginary island that fluctuates. Not till the end of the 1960s did some artists. Music can breathe life into complex situations. like a painting. In Land Art and other similar movements. the works of artists such as Walter De Maria. Or music that has been created with this in mind. of not needing any relationship with the exterior and drawing all its individual threads to the center of its fabric. which is the only source of its power and meaning. in which four hundred metal posts were planted in the earth of a New Mexico desert in an area of almost three square kilometers. We have all at times felt we are in a place of beauty surrounded by things whose essence seems to have come to a standstill. Art of this type must be experienced in a dynamic interaction with the environment in which it exists. even in the face of much of contemporary art. surrounded on all sides by reality. like the flight of a bird in a garden. what happens outside has no impact on the music.” José Ortega y Gasset The Composer’s Responsibility A dynamic relationship of music with the world creates in the listener a powerful sense of the environment. and vice versa. for the quality of the environment directly influences the quality of the music. The outer world is brought inside in the form of representations of that world. www. to be seen in art galleries. The idea of reproducing the manifestations of nature in a man-made setting has been going on for centuries and still seems to be persevering. The music is there. particularly Americans.

Through art. We must learn anew what it is like to touch the bark of a tree. the process of global warming would continue for thousands of years before once more achieving a balance. 1994 (3) Branchi. but a way of using music. known also as elevator music. Mazzocut-Mis. public offices etc. no more no less. 1989 (4) Simmel. water. Georg "La cornice del quadro. Dossier Musica/complessità.walter-branchi. Muzak Corporation is the name of the company that supplies this type of music and the word Muzak was made by adding the “ak” from Kodak to the word music. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warn us that even if we stopped polluting today. The only real solution is to change ourselves and our approach to the world. and thermal . but these solutions are nothing but stopgap measures. electric. Bruno Mondadori. One of the tasks of art has always been that of opening our eyes. questioning our conventional way of looking at the 17 maggio 2009 | 7 . we must rediscover the marvels of every-day life and attune our ears to the complexity of the soundscape around us. Muzak. José "Meditazioni sulla cornice". that does not require any particular attention on the part of the listener. invented by Major General George Owen Squier in the nineteen thirties. Various ways of lowering pollution of all kinds . Un saggio estetico". new threats for the environment and for the inhabitants of the planet will appear. can be brought to the attention of Earth’s inhabitants. ISMEZ. If humankind continues on the path so far undertaken.In composing music. Bruno Mondadori. I testi e le teorie. food. Milano 1997 www. to feel that we are all one and the same. waiting rooms. It can be heard in super markets. I am not inspired by the fog as it rises but am part of the fog that rises. Studies by scientists and surveillance commissions (among others the IPCC. (2) Schafer. of the environment. the state of the environment. elevators. noise. Walter. is not a kind of music. Milano 1997 (5) Ortega y Gasset. I testi e le teorie. Mazzocut-Mis. Vermount. Rochester. in I percorsi delle forme.are being studied.atmospheric. in I percorsi delle forme. (March 2009) (1) Muzak. Murray. We must stop thinking of the world as centered around man and realize that we are simply part. Configurare il tempo. edited by M. Destiny Books. The term refers to the background | info@walter-branchi. The Soundscape -The Tuning of the World. of a popular kind. to see in order to be seen. drastically degraded by man. edited by M.