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Make Music from the Sounds Around!?
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You're sitting in a busy parking lot on a wet day. Vehicles come and go. You hear car engines, windshield wipers, opening and closing doors. What words do you have to describe all these sounds? For Mark Ballora, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University's School of Music, the words are "great music." It's that simple!


Yan Jun


The American musician was in Beijing last week at MusicAcoustica 2006. At the event Ballora and his wife Wang Agatha Jui-Chih played a piece in which the sound of a flute was processed on a computer. The instrument with the special effects made a "super flute" as Ballora termed the combination.


The super flute produced electroacoustic music... a term described by Ballora as music that's produced by processing acoustic sounds with electronics. The super flute was just an example as was the "parking lot" music. Ballora said every acoustic sound had rhythms with it and his works found inspiration in all of them.


The same passion for sounds is shared by Beijing's Yan Jun, a former rock music critic, who now finds greater pleasure in the field of "sound-art".


Yan Jun loves to record sounds. He does it in the way film directors shoot documentaries with the same idea of chronicling reality. He says there are just too many sources for great sounds -- insects, birds, water, cars, construction sites, thunder and snoring to name but a few -- and that some acoustic sounds were beautiful art in themselves. It's always amazing how new sounds can be created by editing original recordings with the help of easy-to-use computer software such as Garageband and Wavelab.


Here lies the beauty of electroacoustic music--its apparent capability to spark creation and imagination. Using different techniques on one piece of sound two separate artists are able to create something absolutely different. Even the same piece of electroacoustic music gives each listener a different feeling.


There seems to be no concrete messages from musicians. Ballora and Yan Jun say they focus on the sound itself rather than the audience so you can literally assume the music is about anything that comes to your mind.


At this point you may be asking yourself, "If making electroacoustic music is as easy as recording sounds around me and playing them with a computer can I also become a musician?" Both Mark Ballora and Yan Jun's answer a resounding "yes!" You can do it and do it well with an indispensable passion for it. Ballora said currently there are all kinds of people enjoying themselves in this field ... with and without a musical background or technological training. A personal interest is, above all, the best teacher.


There's no better time to jump on the bandwagon with easy-to-use music software and simple-to-follow demonstrations. Yan Jun runs several weekly events for experimental musicians in Beijing. For instance there's "One Plus" every Thursday at the D-22 bar. It introduces a "sound art" musician each week to fully showcase his or her talent. The door is wide open to all upcoming entertainers, says Yan Jun. 


(CRI November 1, 2006)


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