Soundscape composition is an emerging genre of experimental music that incorporates sounds from natural environments. While soundscape composers utilize a wide variety of mediums, techniques, and performance contexts, they share a common purpose of encouraging audiences to question and reflect on their relationship to the environment in the age of the “Anthropocene,” enabling listeners to re-connect to the places in which they live through sound. This study asks how soundscape composers use their music as a rhetoric that communicates environmental issues in ways that depart from typical portrayals in mainstream media. Drawing from the works, interviews, and writings of a selected group of soundscape composers, I argue that soundscape composers act as cultural interlocutors, transferring personal and scientific knowledge to a medium that engages alternative ways of environmental knowing. By repurposing scientific technology to serve artistic ends and interrogating conventional Western notions of what counts as “music,” soundscape composers both broaden what counts as environmental knowledge and question conceptual divisions between humans, nature, and technology. By acting upon the potential of soundscape composition to promote social, political, and cultural change, the artists profiled in this study contribute to an understanding of the environmental crisis not only as a physical reality, but as a crisis of character and culture that forces individuals and societies to reconsider how people relate to nature and to each other.
Dr. Gwynne K Brown
Dr. James Bernhard
Bachelor of Music in Performance
Date of Award
Reich, Megan A., "Soundscape Composition: Music as Environmental Activism" (2018). Honors Program Theses. 27.