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Field Recording, Sound Art and Objecthood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 March 2009

Joanna Demers
Department of Musicology, Flora L. Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089–0851, USA E-mail:


The commercially available field recordings of Francisco López and Toshiya Tsunoda are difficult to classify. These field recordings are not site specific in the conventional sense because they are not tied to a particular architectural or listening space. Nor can field recordings be categorised as just another subgenre of experimental electronic music. Whereas in musique concrète and acousmatic music, sounds are organised according to musical or thematic parameters, López’s and Tsunoda’s field recording sounds are subjected to minimal editing and processing, and are organised according to the innate traits of the sounds themselves.

It would be insufficient, however, to offer the usual conciliatory conclusion that López’s and Tsunoda’s recordings straddle the sound art/music divide by possessing qualities of both. This article argues that these field recordings can best be understood in relation to the visual arts concept of objecthood, Michael Fried’s term for deciphering minimalist sculpture of the late 1960s. Objecthood explains how these field recordings use appropriated sounds that are nonetheless treated as non-referential, autonomous materials. This strategy posits its own type of site specificity that purports to be acultural and ahistorical, yet is nevertheless steeped in culture and history.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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