Music, and especially ambient music, has often an aim to transport a listener to places they have never been, or want to visit. Some ambient albums sound African, some Caribbean– other musics attempt to transport a person to India, or even to ancient or prehistoric settings.
Another approach might be to restore listeners to their own environment(s). Music could supply a new filter for listening to the familiar.
Everyday items, appliances and environments might be recorded, and possibly processed, or even composed, to create atmospheric musics which recreate a person’s homelife. The journey would no longer be to some distant place or time. The journey would be towards a new view of one’s own surroundings.
One of my early exposures to drone music was Alp’s “At Home With Alp” (1999 Soleilmoon). In this album, the artist processed and sequenced recordings made in his home, transforming them into gentle, ambient soundscapes.
A much-documented period in my career as mystified occurred when I began using phonographic material, both in and of itself, and as sources for other compositions. This material, gathered mainly in my South Saint Louis apartment, led to the creation of popular net releases such as, “Nocturne” (2006 Treetrunk) and “South City Spring” (2006 Treetrunk).
What were the effects of such methods? I should mention highs and lows. Music like this can create new sounds and sonic environments, but they do not tend towards the grand or lofty, as much as ambient music often does. They can be aurally engaging, while remaining local, familiar– even low.
Perhaps they are the musical equivalents of Duchamp’s “Readymades”, or of Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures.
Modes like these are additionally helpful for musicians, as they are able to easily and conveniently harvest sounds from home, or from nearby, using any of a variety of inexpensive recording devices. They provide accessible sounds for which a studio is not necessary, nor are musical instruments, amplification devices, synthesizers, or similar gear.
My main contribution to “The High Fidelity Home” concept involves my project Grid Resistor. This 2017 project utilized a very specific type of source material. Only recordings of machines were to be used. These were nearly all harvested from my home, using a contact microphone. The only additional sounds were from the beginnings or ends of cassette tapes or from a shortwave radio, between bands. Roughly eighty-percent of the sounds heard in Grid Resistor tracks were from home appliances, captured in high-fidelity, then processed.
As a result, Grid Resistor tracks have an eerie familiarity to them. They are both ominous and industrial, and suggestively domestic. As the listener drifts off into meditation, he or she finds themselves– at home. The listener is back at home, yet this environment is perceived differently– perhaps as if through a microscopic lens.
I completed my Grid Resistor project in 2017. At that time, I moved generally away from composing music. But I did continue to record local devices. Recordings of, for example, my furnace, space heater, kitchen faucet and other appliances were harvested and released on Bandcamp for listeners’ enjoyment, and/or for use in additional and supplemental recordings.
In an increasingly dangerous and expensive world, it makes sense to stay at home. A person’s home, as they say, becomes their castle. “The High Fidelity Home” pays heed to this understandably popular environment, transforming sounds heard everyday into new sonic experiences.