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date: 20 February 2020

Environmental music [background music]locked

  • David Toop


[background music]

Definitions and interpretations of environmental music proliferated in the 20th century. Many speculations about music's origins stress the significance of natural sounds such as birdsong, and much evidence exists of the ingenuity with which pre-20th-century musicians and composers of all kinds have incorporated environmental sounds into their music. The unprecedented impact of new technologies and global communications heightened the absorption of environmental influences during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Claude Debussy, for example, played pianistic impressions of Paris street sounds while still a student. His work as a mature composer came to reflect the influence of Javanese music heard at the Paris Exposition of 1889, and in 1913 he wrote: ‘The century of aeroplanes has a right to a music of its own’.

That view was shared by the Russian and Italian futurists ( see Futurism ). A futurist performance in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1922 choreographed factory sirens, steam whistles, foghorns, artillery, machine guns and aircraft into an epic of ‘proletarian music’. Between ...

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