Five Versions of Reality




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Recording, musical

Peer reviewed


Five Versions of Reality is a stereo acousmatic composition. It was created using field recordings from five different locations (Paris, Prague, Helsinki, Christchurch and Corfu) and digital audio processing tools.


Five Versions of Reality (2013) By John Young 1. (… Paris) 0’00” : dur. 2’45” 2. (… Prague) 2’45” : dur. 2’04” 3. (… Helsinki) 4’46” : dur. 3’20” 4. (… Christchurch) 8’00” : dur. 3’17” 5. (… Corfu) 11’18” : dur. 2’49” Five Versions of Reality is a cycle of short acousmatic spaces, linked by a similar approach to sound materials. Each space is created around fragments of field recordings that I have made in different parts of the world over many years. They are linked by a similar formal approach to the use of the field recordings—as ‘windows’ on a lived sonic experience—but also by the presence of a set of gestural figures that take on different musical roles and functions within each. The sounds were all collected during ‘sound walks’: in the Parisian rail and metro systems, a busker in Helsinki, massive resonating flagpoles in Prague, sounds of the marina in Corfu, or the fairground caller in Christchurch (the last one was recorded thirty years ago). I was not aiming to present these as programmatic or poetic evocations of each of the locations. Instead, I wanted to frame the recordings as small flickers of memory: to embody the sense of being present in a particular space at a particular time. This expresses my own view of the significance of field recording in electroacoustic music: as aural documents they lay bare the materiality of and timescale in which sound events unfold, detached from the actual experience of them. Almost always, for me at least, the process of re-hearing a field recording is something quite different to the original multi-sensory experience. This has both positive and negative consequences: things that I had not attended to at the time may surprise, excite or detract from subsequent listening, or I sense a change of experiential understanding, for instance via the microphone’s potential for enhanced intimacy or as a result of the absence of other contextual factors … tactile, olfactory, visual. But for me a strong motivation is the way field recordings can carry strong emotive resonance—blending powerful iconography with the raw physical engagement and presence of sound, along with the inevitable capacity for nostalgia inherent in a sonic reality brought back from time, and the sheer sensuous pleasure in experiencing the many forms and colours of sound. As a result of this way of finding meaning-through-memory in field recordings, each movement of Five Versions of Reality attempts to refabricate something of the involvement and creative shifts in focus and attention that can occur in real-life listening situations, while also celebrating the uniqueness of any one experience of sound and place at any time. I consider each space complete in itself, an étude in the compression of form, embracing the challenge of creating quickly a sense of several possible layers of implication and direction within each. Finally, the cycle as a whole attempts to emphasise a consistent view of the possible relationships between sound as we hear and sound as we imagine.


soundscape, electroacoustic composition, Acosumatic music, Sound transformation


Young, J. (2013) Five Versions of Reality. Stereo electroacoustic composition.


Research Institute

Music, Technology and Innovation - Institute for Sonic Creativity (MTI2)