Unsound Objects

Jonty Harrison

Unsound Objects

  • Jonty Harrison
  • Year of composition: 1995
  • Duration: 12:59
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Commission: ICMA
  • ISWC: T9247893534

One of the main criteria in Pierre Schaeffer’s definition of the objet sonore (sound object) was that, through the process of écoute réduite (reduced listening), one should hear sound material purely as sound, divorced from any associations with its physical origins — in other words, what is significant about a recorded violin sound (for example) is that particular sound, its unique identity, and not its ‘violin-ness.’ Despite this ideal, a rich repertoire of music has been created since the 1950’s which plays precisely on the ambiguities evoked when recognition and contextualization of sound material rub shoulders with more abstracted (and abstract) musical structures. But as these structures should themselves be organically related to the peculiarities of individual sound objects within them, the ambiguity is compounded: interconnections and multiple levels of meaning proliferate. The known becomes strange and the unknown familiar in a continuum of reality, unreality and surreality, where boundaries shift and continually renewed definitions are the only constant…

Unsound Objects was realized at the composer’s studio and in the Electroacoustic Music Studios of the University of Birmingham (UK) and was first performed at the 1995 International Computer Music Conference (ICMC ’95) in Banff (Alberta, Canada) on September 7, 1995. Unsound Objects was commissioned by the International Computer Music Association (ICMA).


  • September 7, 1995, ICMC 1995: Concert, Margaret Greenham Theatre — The Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff (Alberta, Canada)