Barry Truax – Soundscape composition lecture / performance

March 31, 2009 at 6:25 pm (Research, Lectures & Contextualisation)

Two weeks ago I attended a lecture by Barry Truax at Goldsmiths. Barry Truax is professor in School of Communication & School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraiser University in Canada. He has been involved with the World Soundscape Project and written a great deal about acousitic ecology and communication.

In this lecture he played several soundscape compositions on an 8-channel diffusion/surround sound system. I can’t quite describe how amazing the experience was. The depth of realism within the pieces was incredible. The spatialisation of sound over so many speakers really does set up the illusion that you are ‘there’, providing you engage your ears and visualize. In the second part of his lecture he covered some of his research and approaches to soundscape composition, very stimulating.

There are a number of his papers online, which can be found here:


This is an excerpt the paper Soundscape Composition as Global Music: Electroacoustic Music as Soundscape, in which he defines criteria for soundscape composition.


” (a) listener recognizability of the source material is maintained, even if it subsequently undergoes transformation; 


(b) the listener’s knowledge of the environmental and psychological context of the soundscape material is invoked and encouraged to complete the network of meanings ascribed to the music; 


(c) the composer’s knowledge of the environmental and psychological context of the soundscape material is allowed to influence the shape of the composition at every level, and ultimately the composition is inseparable from some or all of those aspects of reality; and ideally, 


(d) the work enhances our understanding of the world, and its influence carries over into everyday perceptual habits. “

Published in Organised Sound, 13(2), 103-109, 2008. 


I’ve been thinking about some of these approaches too, with regards to my ideas:



The real vs unreal relates to criteria A. I talked about this in my prototypes – the importance of recognition of the source. 

The lecture also made me consider the possibility of using surround sound, as well as questioning whether or not my recordings are of high enough quality to recreate a realistic representation of certain places.


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