For centuries, music has been typically static – the rock band, the orchestra, the folk singer played in one spot, and the audience sat before them and listened.
And whether the music was played in a concert hall or in a field or club, it was primarily static in execution, in that the music was scored and didn’t alter according to the venue.
It was also still music in that it was the primary reason for the listener to be there: you went to hear the music.
Perhaps it’s when the music is a part, but not the primary part, of an experience that it starts to morph into a soundscape.
This obviously applies to film scores to create emotion and tension – think Bernard Hermann’s score to Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’.
But perhaps a more precise and early example would be something like Handel’s ‘Water Music’, played on the Thames from a barge accompanying the King upriver.
The music was played both going and returning, so it was clearly a different experience on each journey, at each location.
It wasn’t the same piece at Waterloo as it was at Chelsea.
The music wasn’t there to accompany the journey; it was there to change the journey.
And our my book, that makes it a soundscape.
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Soundscapes, on the other hand, encompass not only musical elements but also ambient noises like footfalls, traffic, and human speech. Both natural and manufactured soundscapes exist, and in most cases, they are heard as background noise rather than the main attraction. A mall’s soundscape, for instance, might consist of ambient music playing in the background, announcements being made over the loudspeakers, the sounds of shoppers and merchants mingling, and the ambient sounds of the shops and eateries. Rather from serving as the major focus of attention, the music in a soundscape is typically meant to accentuate the environment’s ambience or mood.
The use of music and other noises in the design of theme parks to evoke a certain mood is an example of how music can be integrated into a broader soundscape. In this situation, the music is merely a component of the experience rather than the main attraction.