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  • Writer's pictureShanna Pranaitis

Sound Inclusivity vs Sound Exclusion

I believe cultivating the curiosity and awareness to include all sounds as musical possibilities is the key to releasing the unlimited potential for artistic expression in each of us. In my own practice, I have found the most artistic freedom and satisfaction (in both new and ancient music) when I have consciously chosen to listen more inclusively.

In many ways, our biggest obstacle as flutists and musicians is the belief that some technique is normal and some is extended. Let me take that one step further...

There is no such thing as extended techniques (Oops, I said that out loud)! Here in the 21st century, it is all simply technique we use to create and express sound (aka music).

It's all about Sound Inclusivity!

And every time we separate a type of sound or playing technique from the rest of our expressive toolkit, we miss out on chances to have a richer, more integrated sound (ie musical) experience. In essence we are excluding some category of sound or technique as being a viable expressive tool. It doesn't mean we have to like all the sounds, but they get to exist as part of a possible musical fabric.

I have feelings whenever I hear someone imply or directly question whether something is actually music because it doesn't fit into their view of what music is or can be. The number of times I have heard the sounds in contemporary music referred to as merely "sound-effects" in order to disqualify something from being "real music" is mind-boggling...There are elements used in music dating back to the earliest written scores that use sounds to create a certain effect (Biber's Sonata Representiva for one example).

I do think we should be careful how we use language when referring to musical sounds and technique and consider: is it including more varied sounds and ideas or excluding sounds and limiting the possibilities. Are we allowing all organized sound to be music or only limited, prescribed sounds from certain time periods, produced in certain ways?

Technically, the term "sound-effects" refers to "a sound other than speech or music made artificially for use in a play, movie, or other broadcast production." As a performer, I assume the composer has carefully selected and arranged the sounds in a piece with great care and attention, and that these sounds (regardless of what they are) are intended to be an integral part of the music...not merely an effect.

Musical technique is a cultivated ability to express sound. This sound is an integral part of the fabric of the whole, complete idea, and it is necessary to the music – if you remove that sound, the music changes in some fundamental way.

As far as I'm concerned, eliminating boundaries around and between all types of sound and music is critical. Music has been constantly evolving both notationally and sonically for millennia in all areas of the globe and in all cultures.

Sound Inclusivity transforms artistic expression. It is not limited to any type, genre, style, time period or aesthetic of music. And none of these are better than any other, period. Perhaps we can let go of sound exclusion in music and embrace the full possibilities of our imagination going forward? Will you join me?

The world is such a richer place when we include all sound as possible ways to experience music, wouldn't you agree?


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