Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Importing the Sonic Souvenir: issues of cross-cultural composition

Importing the Sonic Souvenir: issues of cross-cultural composition Thumbnail


Sourcing sound materials from distant and foreign locations has become a relatively commonand elementary practice for the electroacoustic music composer to engage with. The ease andfrequency of traveling has been responsible, in part, widening the availability of sound choiceand collection and in turn providing a vast “acoustic palette as wide as that of the environmentitself”.This practice of cross-cultural sound sourcing may be understood by our attraction to theexotic, and the unadulterated soundworld sonic souvenirs can yield. The need for originalityas a consideration for the electroacoustic music composer can be addressed through seekingout new and unique sound materials in this way.With reference to terminology, ‘sonic souvenirs’2 are discussed in an authentic sense and maybe characterised by their environmental, instrumental or verbal origin. It is their significanceand association with a unique place or culture that defines them. This paper attempts to makethe distinction between elusive sonic souvenirs and more locally sourced sound materials,readily available within a composer’s vicinity.In many respects, the analogy of the keepsake souvenir picked up on a holiday presents apoint of departure. Souvenirs are attractive mementos, but also tend to be mass marketeditems, symbolic of an original object, lacking genuine status. They provide a memory orrepresentation of our personal traveling history, acting as trophies of our accomplishedglobetrotting. While in practice, importing sonic souvenirs into the studio remains unchangedfrom ordinary recording work conducted around and on our immediate doorstep, thesignificance of those materials can present a challenge in terms of their integration,consequence and reception of the finished work. The use of these sounds and the artisticendeavors that transform and sculpt these sounds into music raises a number of issues ofownership, integrity and appropriation. The need to be respectful in sourcing materials fromoutside ones own cultural home is often high on the composer’s agenda, but what doesrespectful borrowing entail? How do insiders and outsides of a given culture receive thispractice? What are the benefits and positive outcomes of this hybrid format? And how doesthis practice relate to common areas of investigation within ethnomusicology?

Conference Name Electroacoustic Music Studies Network Conference (Sforzando!)
Conference Location New York
Acceptance Date Jun 1, 2011
Publication Date Dec 1, 2011
Series Title Electroacoustic Music Studies Network Conference
Publisher URL


Downloadable Citations