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English definition

In the realm of composition, the concept of the Sound Symbol, or Sound-as-Symbol is a means of attempting to understand electroacoustic music whose discourse and narrativity is based on relationships between sounds selected precisely for their referential or extrinsic signifying potential. This approach should be compared to the Schaefferian notion of Reduced Listening. Closely related are the concepts of sounds serving metaphorical or metonymic functions within signifying practice. Trevor Wishart has written extensively on the subject.

Certain sounds, such as the sea, wind, thunder, machines, bells, and so on, may carry symbollic functions within cultures. In the realm of Soundscape studies sounds within our everyday environments may be classified, analysed and studied in terms of any such symbolism. Chapter 12 of R. Murray Schafer’s seminal book on the soundscape, The Tuning of the World (Knopf, 1977), represents an early example of such a discussion.

Thursday 6 January 2005, by Rob Weale