I make little or no distinction between the physical world in which I live and the metaphysical world in which I create sounding objects. I draw constantly from both wells. The effects of the real world on me (sounds, sights, smells, human events etc) are reflected directly in my music. Sometimes without mediation. That is, I look and listen, think and feel in a given environment and those activities inevitably inspire forms of sonic re-presentation in my mind. In short, the world around me - my given environment - is and can be my music. While nature itself is in constant evolution, we can now (with our recent technologies) document certain aspects of our environment - its sounds , for example. But insofar as these sounds are dependent on ultimate planetary changes over which we have no control, we can only "record" minute moments in our own lifetimes which will preserve these sounds perhaps only for a short length of time after our normal life spans, given our present storage possibilities.

Ecologically speaking there is little one can do to fix, and conserve given sonic environments, since they are inevitably bound to the rates of change of human and geophysical developments in any given environment - If we are lucky, an ancient forest will "sound" the same one hundred years from now, but the City of Tokio will not - who ever will be lucky to find and be able to listen to our audio-archives in the near and distant futures - will have a memory map, and partial sonic alphabet to decipher our times, much as we have speculated about the sound of Plato's Cave or the music of Hetshapsut in ancient Egypt.

A great part of my musical work is a meditation on human and animal behaviour. hence It employs the use of recorded environmental sound for it's natural musical, poetic, and transcendental qualities. In many cases, It also employs (adapts) the spaces in which these sounds exist, as a form of natural theater.

So if I am using the sound of ship horns or fog horns, I am inclined to create a music on or near a body of water. If I am making a piece for the ancient city - such as Matera - whose history is bound with the Tufo Stone on and in which it is founded, I am apt to make work in a beautiful stone quarry; and if as in CRYSTAL PSALMS I want to unite people who neith know nor see nor hear each other - I use the radio connections from 6 European countries as I did in that work to unite some 300 musicians for a common ritual of commemoration.

The World itself is for me a real and imaginary concert hall which has a nonstop music, just like that of the barking dogs at night, in any country setting - how unreasonable would it be to imagine - as i often do- that a single dog, in Genzano di Roma - is passing a message eventually to a Dog or other people in Ubud, Bali - every night. How do we know, where is the last dog, who responded to the one before it once such a sonic chain letter is started???

Alvin Curran

Presented at the San Francisco Art Institute lecture series curated by Bill Berkson, 1999.


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